Actually, It’s about Ethics in Stockholm Syndrome

Typical #Gamergate celebrity reaction to any discussion of Baphomet.

Typical #Gamergate celebrity reaction to any discussion of Baphomet.

Often when I write about Gamergate and Baphomet, #Gamergaters demand I clarify how I am certain Gamergate and Baphomet are linked. They often point out to me that Gamergate top bananas get their share of harassment, with the implication that it is feminist extremists sending these threats. In most cases, Gamergate top brass blame specific instances of harassment on “aGG” individuals such as myself.

But in three cases I know of, top #Gamergate talking heads were actually targeted by Baphomet. I archived threads from Baphomet discussing the attack as it was in progress and documented these attacks in this space. In each case, I hoped that these Gamergate de facto leaders would actually look at the Baphomet threads, but none of them seem to want to see the sausage getting made, as it were. Still, it seems important enough for me that I want to review these attacks, to illustrate how Baphomet will hurt people within #Gamergate, the group that shelters Baphomet and profits off Baphomet’s work.

  1. Ralph Retort

Ralph Retort (aka Ethan Ralph) has a personal beef with Baphomet, which makes him the only GGer to explicitly disavow the group. In a February post reacting to Baphomet’s theft of Social Security Numbers, titled “Cancerous Baphomet Allegedly Gutted Over Credit Cards and SSN Postings”, Ralph wrote:

The fact is, they’re a cancer on 8chan. They should not only be gutted, but they should be deleted from the board altogether. Prominent GamerGate members have been tormented thanks to the baphomet board (if not the members themselves) time and time again (Liz, Remi, etc). Today they even started fucking with me, and I’ve been told to expect more attacks from those quarters. Instead of fear, I spent all day laughing at the bastards. One of the mods in particular actually tried to threaten your intrepid editor. It didn’t work, though, because baphomet is a paper tiger. They don’t scare me, and they shouldn’t scare anyone else. …

As I said on Twitter today, baphomet is a cancer, and their members are scum. Anyone in their clown crew who has broken the law, needs to be put in fucking jail. There is no middle ground for me. They’ve tarnished GamerGate with their bullshit long enough. Let me say publicly that I denounce their group, their members, and any operation that comes from their disgusting little board. I would encourage anyone else with good sense to do the same, but you are of course free to make your own judgments on the matter.

In response, Baphomet (and in particular, Vince, whom Ralph repeatedly called out by name) doxxed Ralph, his parents, his girlfriend, and allegedly compromised Ralph’s credit card information. Baphomet also attempted to frame Ralph for a SWAT attack they co-ordinated, and one Baphite sent Mercedes Carrera a picture of what they claimed was Ralph’s dick. Someone even set up a Twitter impersonator “@TheRaiphRetort”, which worked much the same as my own Baphomet impersonator “@idiediletante”.   Ralph may be tops on Baphomet’s list of #Gamergate people to harass, and Ralph definitely bears Baphomet no love.

But Ralph Retort is not above taking advantage of the fruit of Baphomet’s labors, either; for example, he wrote numerous articles about Sarah Nyberg in the wake of Baphomet claiming to have hacked her, all of which relied upon the leaked information. So although Ralph Retort is against Baphomet in principle (and especially when they attack him personally), Ralph does not generally excoriate Baphomet when they’re doxxing, harassing, or hacking his adversaries.

2. Milo Yiannopoulos / CH Sommers / Koretzky

Both Milo Yiannopoulos and Christina Hoff Sommers have had #Gamergate events spoiled this year by bomb threats. At one of them, a Baphomet user who calls himself “Eclipso” took responsibility for a bomb threat which cut short the afternoon panel of Airplay, a #Gamergate convention.

Gamergate should be out looking for this guy. But I don't think they will.

The Baphomet user who took responsibility for the Airplay threat.

At the time, I was unsure whether the threat was called in as a “fuck you” to the moderator Koretzky, who wasn’t being as co-operative as #Gamergate hoped, or as air support for Yiannopoulos, who was losing his cool during the afternoon panel. But this wasn’t the first time a joint appearance by Yiannopoulos and Based Mom has been spoiled by bomb threats, nor is it the first time they’ve blamed these threats on SJWs (despite a lack of evidence.) Both Yiannopoulos and Sommers hold Arthur Chu responsible for sending a bomb threat to their #GGinDC meetup, although there’s no evidence that Chu is actually responsible. (Chu had written the venue before the event, urging them to research Gamergate and consider cancelling; but there’s no evidence Chu sent a bomb threat once diplomacy failed.)

Although Yiannopoulos and Sommers both represent that these threats are really no big deal, they also have experienced firsthand how disruptive they can be. And to wit, Yiannopoulos has starting bringing escorts to his appearances, and Sommers seems not to want to appear at #Gamergate events without Yiannopoulos to act as her escort.

If I were to speculate, Yiannopoulos can’t call out Baphomet for spoiling his events with bomb threats because he’s dependent upon Baphomet for tips. Likewise, Sommers is reluctant to call out Baphomet on her own, since she knows she could be targeted hard, just like Ralph Retort was. In some ways, these people have no choice but to blame “SJWs” for the bad shit Baphomet does to them, because they’re indebted to Baphomet for doing their dirty work for them.

3. Sargon of Akkad

Sargon of Akkad (aka Carl Benjamin) was a career anti-SJW even before #Gamergate made that a viable way of supporting oneself. However, as Sargon became more popular, some fans complain that he has also become more moderate, more compromising for the sake of appealing to more than just #Gamergate. I don’t think this is the case – Sargon has become more mendacious, but not more moderate – but the impression that he might give quarter in the interest of keeping his Patreon open has made certain gamers pig-biting mad. And nobody’s madder about Sargon’s moderateness per se as the extremists on Baphomet: 

I just view it this way. He and his youtube buddies always think there is some conspiracy against him, even when fox new monetizes a vid he makes with fox news footage. If he is [doxxed], fucked with, or finds out about it, they will think its some SJW fem conspiracy against him. Then him and his youtube buddies will be triggered and make a bunch of retaliation vids and other things and him and KiA will go crazy.
As I said, I do not care about GG or SJWs. Im not either, although if I picked it would be GG. I just see the perfect oppertunity for lulz
To wit, Sargon was sent Google Street View images of his home the following day. But this isn’t even the first time Gamergate has trolled Sargon’s home address. He was also doxxed nearly a year prior to this, receiving a flatware set from Amazon which he opened on video. The flatware came with a note saying “please thrill yourself” from “EvilBobDALMYT and /gg/”. This was similar (if more polite, maybe) to the time Gamergate sent Chris Kluwe a dildo after his debate with Mike Cernovich.
Sargon always tries to put a laugh on it, but the fact is that he’s vulnerable to trolling from Baphomet whenever he says or does something they feel is not extreme enough. Sargon’s only response to this is to throw up blinders, opting for the “bury your head in the sand” strategy favored by ostriches and right-wing politicians. He will even choose to remain in ignorance if I send him archived Baphomet threads, so he can plausibly deny Baphomet’s involvement in one doxxing scandal or another. I assume this is because (like everyone else I discussed here) Sargon is simply too dependent on Baphomet for advantages over the SJWs to take a meaningful stand against them, even if that puts his own family at risk.

Gamergate’s Golden Handcuffs
In going through these cases, what strikes me is how Gamergate’s top brass seem to be vulnerable to harassment from their own fans. Ralph couldn’t speak out against Baphomet without getting targeted; and when other Gamergate figureheads saw Ralph getting harassed, they didn’t speak out about it either.
I can’t speak for why nobody defended Ralph’s hard stance on Baphomet identity theft (since #Gamergate would like to represent itself as against harassment), but I suspect the reason Mercedes Carrera laughed & played along with Baphomet’s trolling was because she knew she could be next. Likewise, I suspect that the reason Yiannopoulos and Sommers are intent on blaming bomb threats sent to their events on SJWs is because they know that speaking out about Baphomet will only make things worse for them. Similarly, Sargon of Akkad prefers to remain ignorant about what happens on Baphomet, because even though they know his address and have trolled him before, he’s better off with Baphomet as part-time allies than as full-time adversaries. And since Baphomet can be relied upon to stalk SJWs more often and more intensely than #Gamergate figures, perhaps #Gamergate’s superstars reason that so long as they ignore Baphomet, Baphomet will ignore them.
But the fact is, Gamergate allows Baphomet to hide in its ranks. Most Baphites are Gamergaters too, which is why Baphomet focuses its ire on “aGG” people with such intensity and regularity. Baphites are a subset of Gamergate’s fandom, and they demand to be catered to. If you stop short of 100% satisfaction, Gamergate (and by extension, Baphomet) typically pitches a tantrum. To quote Koretzky, “What happens when you give GamerGate panelists almost everything they want at AirPlay? They threaten to quit.”  Indeed, all the Gamergate celebrities I’ve mentioned here seem to regard getting doxxed and harassed as an inevitable cost of doing business on the Internet; like they’ve all developed Stockholm Syndrome from rubbing shoulders with Baphomet for too long.
This is why, I think, no #Gamergate figurehead (with the exception of Ralph Retort) is willing to stand up to Baphomet – they believe if they give Baph everything they want (which is mostly anyonymity and invisibility within the movement) that Baphomet will leave them be. But historically, this hasn’t been the case, so I don’t think it’ll happen going forward.
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Baphomet Alleges Moderator “Vince” is Dead. But Is He?

Rest in Peace, you little shit.

Vince: 6 feet under, or simply on the lam? (Source: The Observer)

 

One of Baphomet’s moderators has allegedly been killed. According to the 8chan’s one-stop shop for doxxing, identity theft, and guides to viewing child pornography, moderator “Vince” was killed “in a raid by the feds”. Although rumors are running rampant amongst Baphites, I can confirm that Vince’s Twitter account has been radio silent since October 18. With no public notice posted as to where he’s going or what he’s doing for his Internet hacker friends, it does seem possible that Vince is really truly dead. Or at least, that Vince wants it to look that way.

I’m more than a little skeptical of this story. Vince (like everyone else on Baphomet) is a mendacious asshole looking to exploit people in any way he can. So it seems likely to me that this is a ruse, posted by Vince and his most trusted friends so that he can change aliases; the better to evade police attention and possibly prison time.

“Vince” is/was one of the top moderators on Baphomet; his biggest and most recent claim to fame was the Patreon hack which stole the personal information from virtually all clients of the crowdfunding platform. As reported by The Observer, Vince claimed responsibility for the Patreon hack and seems to have been one of the first to know about it. Although Patreon initially claimed no confidential information had been taken, it was: Vince even claimed to have retrieved the last 4 digits of user’s credit cards from the database. And in hindsight, it’s apparent that Patreon’s security was woefully inadequate. 

It was, in layman’s terms, a massive fucking leak; the kind that gets FBI attention to go with your Internet notoriety. Obviously, exploiting a database like this and publicly taking credit for it makes Vince’s name a bit of a hot topic; if he sticks with it he’s likely to get arrested, just like his Baphomet buddy Joshua Goldberg got arrested last month. That is why I am not convinced this whole “killed in a raid thing” isn’t a very large, very complex lie cooked up by Vince to allow him to switch aliases and ensure only a select catre of insiders (i.e. folks like Biddix and Eclipso) know who he really is, while the rank and file in #Gamergate and Baphomet spout the Big Lie that he was shot to death by the FBI, or something.

On the one hand, this is conjecture on my part. On the other, I’d be an idiot to take what I read on Baphomet at face value. Lacking any verifiable proof that he is dead, I’m proceeding with the expectation that Vince is alive and will resurface with a new name in a couple of months; and get introduced to the community as a “new” moderator who just happens to have the same skill set as Vince and just happens to live in the same time zone. That’s exactly the kind of shit post I expect from Baphomet, and it’s exactly the kind of bullshit story #Gamergate has become accustomed to swallowing.

Update: Ralph Retort claims to have chat logs from within Baphomet proving my theory. You can see his Oct 31 post about it here and the logs themselves here. Thx for the research, Ralph!

Security vs. Liberty in the Digital Age

Hi readers; today, I want to present something off my current topic of Milo Yiannopoulos. I’m still preparing a last post about him, but it isn’t ready yet. Today, I want to talk about something completely different: censorship and Internet security.

It’s strange to me that angry men online have taken up anti-censorship as their banner; how vociferously #Gamergate dudes contend that theirs is the side of free speech and anon liberty. Time and time again these idiots mob private individuals like an angry murder of crows, ostensibly because of ‘ethics in games journalism’, but really because those individuals have an opinion #Gamergate doesn’t like.  Speak favorably about Anita Sarkeesian videos and soon enough you’ll have a platoon of weeaboo white supremacists marching through your feed, comments section, Steam page, email inbox, and whatever other accounts they can find to lecture you about Anita the scam artist/not a gamer/Jew/Orwellian folk demon. So I find it really hypocritical that the Volunteer Thought Police are the ones casting themselves as anti-censorship.

Time and time again I’ve been shown how trivial it is for #Gamergate losers to list individuals on a kind of hypervisible online pillory, hoping for the mob to do their worst. It got started with a personal army request thread, and then kind of spread out from there. The whole cycle of finding new women to hate, simmering away at them, and digging through their history in search of a pretext – however flimsy – to justify abuse has become so ritualized it seems people come to #Gamergate now not to harass a particular target, but for the thrill of the chase.

#Gamergate was (and still is) indiscriminate, and the stuff they do is unethical when it’s not outright illegal. For example, I’ve seen #Gamergate try to crumble Sarah Butts’ reputation by spreading malicious rumors about her, I’ve seen #Gamergate brigade online storefronts for video games made by “Literally Who”, and I’ve seen them torpedo other game makers on Metacritic. Baphomet, #Gamergate’s doxxing and raid board, makes a hobby of looking up your phone number & home address and sending unwanted packages, the threat of explosives, or actual SWAT teams. 

Propagandists for groups like #Gamergate repeat outright lies about targeted individuals, in the hopes that their smear campaign will sway the normies. In this I can speak from personal experience. For example, Gamergaters in /r/KotakuinAction hope and pray I’ll face IRL ruination as my justified comeuppance for writing this blog. They scheme about how Mike Cernovich is going to ruin my chances at “med school”, that he’s definitely going to sue me at some point in the indeterminate future over unspecified damages (that is, when he hasn’t got me confused with Zoe Quinn.) And while I don’t think hot takes from Roosh V’s acolytes accusing me of conspiracy to attempted murder or Ralph Ethan repeatedly calling me “Pedo Pless” are going to convince anybody whose opinion really matters, it demonstrates just how easy it is for schlubs with zero technical know-how to hound you online.

Obviously, something is wrong with this picture. Playing MC to a vicious hate mob should not be a paid position, and platforms shouldn’t play host to these hatefests. When companies like Patreon don’t ban profitable abusers like Thunderf00t and Sargon of Akkad, they’re basically endorsing the organization of abuse as acceptable content. Likewise, when Reddit “quarantines” abusive boards by granting them ad-free status, most Redditors are not going to view this as censure. Similarly, if a platform like Twitter insists on giving Nazis a fair shake to use their microblogging service, they’re basically telling everyone else to expect harassment. When these companies fall down on the job of enforcing their own Terms of Service, they embolden would-be trolls to abuse with impunity, and people at risk are basically S.O.L. The solution to this problem is mainly a private one: it’s up to the companies to get real about enforcing their ToS. Sadly, I don’t see that happening. What I do see happening is something a bit more disturbing.

The UN report about “Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls” was a pretty mixed bag. On the one hand, I was happy to see two people whom #Gamergate desperately wanted to scare into silence speak out about their experiences at the UN; but on the other, this event had at most 60 attendees, and the report it generated was mediocre. The title, for example, is “Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls”, which gets shortened to “VWAG” and ignores the fact that this kind of abuse affects people of all genders, as well as other factors like race, economic class, or sexual orientation.

While much of what is written in the report is correct, the conclusions it draws are pretty terrible. Reading it, I’m suspicious that the report wants to subvert feminists into accepting increased surveillance in exchange for a promise of safety from abuse. But I suspect that mass government surveillance isn’t going to make anyone less vulnerable – most #Gamergate activity took place in surveillance states, with essentially no consequences. If #Gamergate communications were being monitored at all, nobody at the NSA took action. Brianna Wu even informed the FBI she was being harassed, to no apparent result. The one Baphomet troll who did get busted by the FBI caught their attention by pretending to be an ISIS guerrilla, whereas his other impersonations and fake personae (e.g. a white supremacist, a real Jewish lawyer living in Australia, a straw feminist on Daily Kos) basically went unnoticed. These surveillance machines have their priorities, but clearly stopping cyber violence isn’t one of them.

It would be pretty easy for groups like the UN to promise feminists increased security and protection from abuse, if we give up our liberty in exchange. But that’s a fundamentally fucked offer: if we give up our liberty in exchange for security, we’re likely to receive neither of these things. And I’m opposed to feminist views that encourage companies and governments to develop even cozier data-sharing arrangements for the sake of my own good, like the UN report does. Similarly, I don’t think extralegal surveillance of angry men online is going to prevent cyberstalking – it’ll just destroy the integrity of whichever agency does it. Fact is, this stuff is mostly out in the open: that’s why I’ve been able to report on it without any special tools.

So what’s an individual to do? You can report specific issues to social media companies ’til the cows come home, but that’s no guarantee they’ll get serious about ending online abuse – for example, I’ve gotten some posts from Ralph Retort calling me a “pedo” taken off of Twitter (much to his infuriation), but others stay up, and (as of this writing, at least) Ralph’s account is still active. In fact, many of these companies already claim to be serious about preventing online abuse, yet little changes. You could give up your Twitter account, your blog, your Facebook, etc (or choose not to sign up in the first place), but that’s tantamount to letting the abusers win – considering their goal is to silence dissent, scaring people away = mission accomplished. You can become a cryptography bug, throwing up roadblocks between your information and these abusers, but this requires know-how; and not everyone has the time, money, or inclination to keep their online security at Snowden-esque levels.

To be sure, there are basic safeguards everybody should take to protect their accounts. For example, there’s no excuse for anyone to use the same easy-to-hack password for all their accounts; not with password managers readily available and capable of syncing encrypted vaults to all your devices. I’m using 1Password, but there are free options like KeePass, and Apple even has an integrated manager in iCloud. But there’s a difference between reasonable security and encrypting fucking everything; and just because you’re protected doesn’t mean everyone around you is gonna be. In my experience, trolls frustrated by a particular target’s security savvy will generally go after people connected to that target who don’t have that aptitude – they’ll target your Patreon supporters, or your YouTube subscribers, or your Twitter followers, or your family members, just to get to you. 

There are no easy answers here. My personal opinion is that liberty and security both need appropriate limits, because if one is truly unlimited, the other simply can’t exist. Free speech absolutists like 8chan sorta bear this out – without any limits, 8chan quickly became a haven for identity thieves and child porn enthusiasts, as well as #Gamergate. Likewise too many concessions to security hawks simply sell off our privacy for no tangible benefit (at least, not in terms of terror plots stopped, school shootings foiled, or internet flash mobs discouraged from harassment of private individuals.) In some small way, this post is an attempt to work out my own position. It’s my hope that what I’ve written will help you work out yours, regardless of what it is.