So what do you do when a fondly held fantasy crumbles? That’s a question that both Davis Aurini and Jordan Owen have had to ask themselves this past week, when something they both desperately hoped was true – that Anita Sarkeesian had lied about contacting the police about death threats she’d gotten on Twitter – was shown convincingly to be false.
Both Aurini and Owen have personal and even professional reasons for wanting the terrible things people say about Sarkeesian to all be proved true: they are, after all, the two bumbling would-be filmmakers who are trying to raise money for a feature-length “documentary” targeting Sarkeesian.
And both had a personal stake in this particular story. Aurini, as I noted in a previous post, wrote a blog post a week ago titled “Did Anita Sarkeesian fabricate her story about contacting the authorities?” in which he reported a conversation he had with a San Francisco Police Department spokesman who said he could find no record of her reporting these threats. While Aurini didn’t directly claim she had lied about reporting the threats, his post was positively dripping with insinuations:
Did Ms. Sarkeesian report this to the FBI instead of the SFPD? Did the Officer who she reported to hate women, and throw her report in the garbage? Did she eat some bad burritos, and was this all just a fever dream?
None of the above, actually: The police spokesman looked harder and discovered that Sarkeesian had in fact reported the threats to the SFPD, which had then passed the case along to the FBI. Oops.
Owen had gone a bit farther, declaring the charges against Sarkeesian to be “LEGIT” on Twitter, and posting a now-deleted YouTube video in which, he now admits, he “jumped the gun” a bit, “getting overly excited and exuberant … when it looked like we had Anita cornered.”
So how did the two react to the news that they were wrong?
Aurini went uncharacteristically silent, trying his best to avoid the subject. It wasn’t until nearly a week later – yesterday – that he bothered to respond in a blog post that is a model of desperate duplicitousness.
Instead of frankly admitting that he had attempted to smear Sarkeesian using information that had turned out to be untrue, he deflected, saying blandly that “details have changed,” and going on to attack those who suggest he take some responsibility for his earlier smear job:
Some voices in the peanut gallery have been demanding that I apologize, or that I retract my allegations (funny, that – I don’t seem to recall making any allegations), but this just goes to show what sort of child-like minds we’re dealing with.
He then tried to argue that the “revelation” that Sarkeesian had in fact told the truth somehow muddied the water even more:
This revelation about the FBI doesn’t answer all of our queries, rendering GamerGate nothing but a tinfoil-hat in neck-beard chic – quite the contrary, it compounds them!
After rattling off a list of questions he thinks still need to be answered, and a list of publications he thinks have mishandled the story, he tries to convince his readers that “[t]his doesn’t undermine GamerGate – this vindicates it!”
Jordan Owen’s response was a bit more human, and a lot more interesting. The fact that he had been wrong about Sarkeesian actually seemed to plunge him into something close to an existential crisis. Well, the fact that he had been wrong – combined with the fact that the fundraising for The Sarkeesian Effect has not been going as well as he and Aurini had hoped.
Last Saturday, while his partner was still maintaining radio silence, Owen posted a bizarre video on YouTube in which, lying on the couch in an apartment that looked like it had just been hit with a tornado, he admitted that he’d jumped the gun, declaring Sarkeesian a liar before all the information was in. And he somehow managed to spin the whole story into one in which he was the primary victim.
In the angry, rambling, and nearly hour-long video, Owen described how worn down he was by the constant criticism he’s gotten on the internet since he and Aurini launched their fundraising appeal, lamented how little the two have managed to raise thus far, and pondered quitting the project entirely. He complained that the project had taken him away from his true passions – music and writing – and left him feeling drained and belittled. “I know that I am sincere in my opinions,” he groused.
This is not some bullshit fabrication. I know that. And I have to tell myself that and I have to be resilient every single time I sit down and comment on this because if I waver for even an instant everything will crumble around me. And the social justice warriors will just say, “see, I told you so.” And that’ll be that.
Think about that level of pressure before you have the gall to take me to task for getting overly excited and exuberant in one of my videos when it looked like we had Anita cornered.
Yes, that’s right, a guy trying to raise money to make a film attacking a woman who’s already under attack from seemingly half the internet is complaining that people are attacking him on the internet.
And he seems to feel not an ounce of empathy for her.
While Aurini seems to be a bit of a snake-oil salesman – a bumbling con artist, but a con artist nonetheless – I have no doubt that Owen is indeed, as he says, sincere. A man who’s spoken openly about being bullied as a child, he honestly believes that he is the victim here – and that Sarkeesian and her allies are the bullies.
He’s also angry at and openly envious of Sarkeesian for being able to raise the money she did for her videos while he and Aurini have had to struggle to raise the money for theirs.
His rambling video is a fascinating psychological document. If you don’t have the patience for the whole thing – which you can find here – I suggest you at least watch the much shorter video below, which offers some notable selections from Owen’s lament along with some commentary which is sometimes on the mark and other times a bit presumptuous in its psychological deconstruction of the man on the couch.
TRIGGER WARNING: The video contains images from a Flash game that depicts Sarkeesian with cuts and bruises on her face.
Oh, SPOILER ALERT. Owen didn’t actually shut the project down. He managed to put this little psychological meltdown behind him. He and Aurini are planning to go ahead and start filming – even if they don’t get all the money they claim they need for the project.
It’s all faintly ridiculous, and I almost feel a little bad for the two of them. Until I remember that the two are contributing in their own way – with their videos and their “journalism” – to the harassment that Sarkeesian has been facing ever since she first announced she would be talking about sexism in video games – harassment that we now know included bomb threats sent to organizers of the Game Developers Choice Award when they presented Sarkeesian with an award last March.
Aurini I think is hopeless. But Owen, for all his rage and self-pity, seems at least to have a tiny bit of humanity left in him. He knows what it’s like to be bullied. Maybe at some point in the next few months he’ll come to understand that he and his collaborator are doing the same thing to Sarkeesian that the bullies did to him – and pull the plug on a video project that, however farcical it is, still has the potential to do real people real harm.
I doubt it, but I guess I can still hope.