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Author Note: The original article incorrectly attributes the quote given by Christina Hoff Sommers to Alison Tieman. It was actually a quote from Alison Prime. The content and link has been changed. Thank you for bringing this to our attention!

Prior to SPJ Airplay, moderator Michael Koretzky said they had hired a private security firm and were taking measures in the event threats were leveled against the event. As it turns out, these precautions were warranted. Less than two hours into the second half, the Koubek Center where Airplay was being held was evacuated, along with the main SPJ Conference which was one building over, and the residential area nearby.

Before the bomb threat, the panel members continued their discussion on how the gaming community has been falsely portrayed in media. Koretzky opened the second half, informing the audience that there had been a bomb threat, but that because the facility was secure, the panel would go on. Milo Yiannopoulus opened the afternoon panel discussing the Law & Order: SVU episode parodying GamerGate, online culture, and the perception of the gaming community and women. Milo pointed the finger at games journalist as the reason the episode existed and portrayed gamers in the way it did. He spoke against “advocate journalism” and spoke a bit about the gaming experience and how new gaming journalists have taken away from that.

Christina Hoff Sommers opened with an anecdote about comment from Alison Prime, saying “I fucking swear, they get rid of huge boobs, I’m gone” which was interpreted on Twitter as being from a man. Sommers used this scenario to move into a discussion of narrative in the media, and the focus on sensationalism over factual reporting. She emphasized that the accusations towards GamerGate can’t be verified, and that media has assumed GamerGate guilty of harassment based only on accusations. She commended GamerGate as “welcoming, funny, artistic” and explained how she had received flowers from GGers after her husband’s passing, and her nickname “Based Mom”.

Cathy Young opened: “I’m just gonna follow-up with more media bashing”. She said she had never seen a story covered as badly as GamerGate, comparing it to the Rolling Stones UVA “rape story”. Discussing harassment, she pointed to studies that found men may be more likely to be harassed, whereas women receive more specific kinds, and in “harassment” of journalists, there is no gender disparity. She also spoke on the apparent lack of fact verification from journalism, especially regarding stories about harassment. Koretzky interrupted at one point, saying he did not want to further discuss gender or feminism. Yiannopolus responded, saying they needed to provide the context around GamerGate, saying they were inseparable.

Lynn Walsh, a non-GamerGate and SPJ member, said that she always verifies in the cases Young described. Yiannopolus and Koretzky briefly debated the topic, before Koretzky asked how can journalists report on GamerGate. Yiannopolus said “I’ve been doing it for a year.” Sommers said it does require more work than some interviews and the panel went into a discussion about Reddit and the nature of covering online or leaderless movements. Young recommended looking towards those who are the most active, Ren inputting that it “sounds like a leader”. Koretzky said none of the information has been helpful, which Walsh confirmed but clarified that it was largely because she doesn’t know what Gamergate is, and that the explanations are too much for one story.

The debate continued in a similar fashion, discussing the nature of GamerGate and how to cover online movements in general, until police informed the guests that the building was being evacuated at 2:36 PM EST.

The Airplay Twitter continued to update viewers on the status of the evacuation. At one point, a drone was spotted flying over the center. Shortly after the initial evacuation, police pushed the group farther back, also evacuating the main SPJ Conference which was in a building next door as well as those living in the adjacent residential area. The main Twitter for the SPJ Conference also commented on the evacuation. Yiannopolus reported ten bomb threats initially, but later it was clarified that police had only received two.

Despite the setback, those attending Airplay found refuge in an abandoned house near the center, some pieces recorded by onlookers. Oliver Campbell and Ashe Schow, among several others, participating in the back and forth. Other GamerGate participants took the opportunity to talk one-on-one to speak with some of the journalists present. The SPJ Airplay account continued to take questions from online viewers and summarized responses on their Twitter feed. At one point, Telemundo arrived to cover the story. Two hours later, guests were given the all clear to go back into the building and retrieve their belongings, but the owners of the center informed Koretzky that the event was cancelled. Koretzky reopened the stream temporarily to inform online viewers that they had to leave the area and would not be allowed back in. The other SPJ Conference appears to have continued without further interruption. Police have not provided any further information on who may have submitted the threat or if anything was found on site.

In the aftermath, panelist Yiannopolus published a statement he had pre-written, which coincidentally spoke about the past bomb threat which was aimed at a Gamergate meetup in Washington, DC. Other news sources reported on the threat, some like the RISE: Miami News report being heralded as an example of the type of journalism GamerGate protests (their headline implying GamerGate was the reason for the evacuation). Speculation on who the person responsible for the threat has spread throughout Twitter but mostly panelists, guests, and onlookers seem to be undeterred.

Quick Take

It doesn’t seem like anyone is surprised by the bomb threat and there is a good reason to not be, as it is not the first time. Only time will tell how this has impacted coverage however. The event itself, honestly, was highly disorganized and at times felt more like a battle between certain panelists and the moderator. There were things said, but nothing very new nor helpful. The true event here was during the evacuation, when regular participants were able to have frank and personal discussions with the many journalists now left outside of their event. It got to appropriately delve into what GamerGate is about, which is something community based. It is not something organized or representative, despite what even some of the panelists suggested. There are many ideas there. The moral of the story, which was probably heard much louder on the porch of an abandoned building, is that gamers deserve a fair shake. It’s yet to be seen whether the journalists there took it to heart, but for now, seems nothing can hold gamers down in this situation. 

Kindra Pring

Staff Writer

Teacher's aid by day. Gamer by night. And by day, because I play my DS on my lunch break. Ask me about how bad my aim is.