CBC Ombudsman: Hard to establish notions of fairness when point of contention is a hashtag
Q listener files complaint over show’s characterization of #GamerGate.
By Esther Enkin, for the CBC
The complainant, Derek Soulliere as well as some others wrote to say that an interview on Q with game developer Brianna Wu was biased and inaccurate. Referring to the online movement requires nuanced language. The interview worked; the introduction didn’t.
You complained that an interview with Brianna Wu on the CBC Radio One program Q was biased and unfair. Ms. Wu was interviewed by guest host Rachel Geise about an episode on the NBC series “Law and Order SVU” in which a female video gamer is harassed and kidnapped. She was interviewed because she had written a blog about the episode, as it was widely believed that it was based on her experience and the experience of some other women involved in the gaming industry.
Ms. Wu had written a blog about the episode, entitled “I’m Brianna Wu and I’m risking my life standing up to Gamergate.” It was this and other references to #GamerGate that was the cause for your complaint. You believe that the characterization of #GamerGate was false, and it misrepresented a “consumer movement as nothing but a cabal of misogynist harassers, even despite many of its foremost figures being women themselves.”
You thought that CBC took Ms. Wu’s narrative at face value and should have challenged her claims. You said Q has an obligation to bring on “supporters of Gamergate and its ideals” in order to provide needed balance to this interview segment. Other supporters of #GamerGate complained about this interview as well, much along the same lines as you did.
Lynda Shorten, Director, Network Talk, is the manager responsible for the program Q. She apologized for the very long delay in answering your complaint. She acknowledged that “GamerGate is a controversial issue” and that it would have been preferable to acknowledge that some who associate with the hashtag see it as a movement to improve ethics in the gaming industry and reject its reputation as misogynistic:
Some of those using the hashtag argue — as you do — that their goal is to improve the ethics of online video game journalism. And I agree with you to the extent that the program should have acknowledged that point of view. But if the hashtag started with that intent, as with most online headings, it was soon broadened to include other issues. For the six months or so prior to this story, GamerGate had attracted public attention largely because of those who used the hashtag to make bullying and misogynistic attacks on female gamers — developers Brianna Wu and Zoe Quinn and feminist social critic Anita Sarkeesian perhaps chief among them.
She explained that the producers of the program decided to air an interview with Ms. Wu because of the Law and Order episode, and the fact Ms. Wu had written about it. She said that the interview was about Ms. Wu’s reaction to the TV drama, and the broader issues of sexism in the gaming world. She emphasized the story limited itself to Ms. Wu’s experience and was not an examination of the ongoing controversy around #GamerGate. She thought that it was a respectful examination of some of those broader issues “including gamer culture, misogyny and social media criticism.”
She added that this was not an examination of #Gamergate, so there was no need to provide a variety of perspectives and points of view. She said that balance and fairness is not based on a mathematical formula, and according to CBC policy could be achieved over time.
To read the rest of this column, please go to the CBC Ombudsman’s website, where it was originally published.