EveryJoe: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. I really appreciate it. Though I never would have expected a crisis in game journalism to end up leading to an interview with you!
Adam Baldwin: Well, this controversy has been going on for years in the regular press, so it doesn’t surprise me that it’s going on in game journalism now as well.
EveryJoe: Let’s talk about the controversy. You were the creator of the #GamerGate hashtag, which is now the most-discussed topic in video games on Twitter. How did you come up with #GamerGate?
Adam: I just put a hashtag on a tweet when I saw a couple of videos. I had no intention of creating a hashtag movement or anything like that. I just thought of it as Watergate Jr. I’m not really the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to gamer journalism or even games in general. But the people that took up the mantle have been experiencing social justice warfare, and they’re sick of it, and they’re speaking up. And obviously the social justice warriors are angry and lashing back.
EveryJoe: How do you feel about the direction of the GamerGate movement that you helped create? Is it moving in the right direction? Is it a positive force?
Adam: I think any sunlight shed on journalistic ethics is positive. In any large movement there are going to be jerks, and you have to put that out as a disclaimer with anything you talk about. There’s always going to be some jerks! But the jerks aren’t the driving forces of what GamerGate is all about.
GamerGate all would have been over within a day or two had the game journalists just said “You know what? You’re right. We’re going to change our policies.” At your Escapist Magazine, you guys did that, you had some introspection — “we need to set up some policies so people know where we are coming from” — and that’s a good thing. It gives the others, Gamasutra and Kotaku and the other ones that refused to do it, an example. If they had just done that, it would have been over immediately.
EveryJoe: Why didn’t they? Why didn’t the other sites do that?
Adam: In the educational programs, in elementary schools, in colleges, they teach a curriculum of being “change agents.” They teach you to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” So you get these game journalists, journalists in general, who want to change the world by invoking social justice, which really just means “have the government be bigger, take more money from people, and institute fairness quotas”— or whatever the hell they define fairness as that day! But that’s what they’re doing, and they’re caught out, and they don’t like it. They don’t like sunlight.
EveryJoe: So you would say GamerGate is absolutely part of a larger struggle going on, between those pursuing this kind of agenda and increasing statism, and those trying to shed light on what’s happening?
Adam: Yes, absolutely. It’s been fascinating to watch how quickly gamers caught onto it. I think they may have been already subconsciously or moderately consciously aware of the rhetoric and the jargon of the social justice platform agenda, but this has brought it to light. They’re very quick learners, gamers are. And because they want to win the game — and Twitter is a word game, it’s “Words with Frenemies” — they’re going to do their best to win the word game. The way you learn that is you learn the jargon. It’s great that it’s out there. Gamers have spread the information far and wide. They may not have been necessarily aware of it before, but they are now, and they always will be from now on.
EveryJoe: I recently saw a tweet came down my stream: “Ever since GamerGate started, I’ve been forced to completely reconsider what it means to be a left-leaning liberal.” So it’s causing second thoughts.
Adam: Yeah, second thoughts are best! There was a famous former Marxist who met with Ronald Reagan. Reagan shook his hand and said to him, “You know, I had second thoughts before you did.”
EveryJoe: Right. Reagan himself was a liberal earlier in his career.
Adam: I was too, until I started reading more. It was just because my parents were McGovern voters. I was a young “brain-dead liberal” as [David] Mamet called it… I call it being a default liberal. Fortunately my parents were teachers, and they made me curious, and I just started reading more, and I was able to challenge my own way of thinking.
EveryJoe: Any particular books that shifted you?
Adam: The two best books I could recommend are not easy reads. Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles is one. The other book, David Horowitz’s, is an essay compilation, called Left Illusions. That’s also a great one. And anything by Victor Davis Hanson is terrific.
EveryJoe: Conflict of Visions is an amazing book. I read that. Shortly thereafter I read Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, where he talks about all of the accumulated scientific evidence for human nature. It just feeds right back into the argument that Thomas Sowell is making — that there are constraints on human nature, and that with politics being the art of the possible, one has to be conservative about what you can accomplish.
Adam: Yes. Man is not perfectible. But I think that the anti-GamerGaters believe that man is perfectible— but perfectible only to the degree that he agrees with their politics. “If you disagree with my political platform, then you hate women, or you’re a homophobe, or you’re a…” fill in the blank from any anti-GamerGate cliché. That’s their game. They want to shut up dissent. I stand against that.
EveryJoe: Right. And you have. You’ve been fairly active politically for a while. On Twitter you described yourself as a “constitutional conservative.” Can you elaborate on that?
Adam: Well, I believe that the US Constitution is probably the most moderate of political documents. It’s right there in the center of humanity, right where individual freedom lies — so if I’m a constitutional conservative then I’m a political moderate.
EveryJoe: Moderate or not, conservatives like you seem to get demonized a lot, especially in entertainment. Have you ever felt that heat yourself in your career?
Adam: It’s been negligible. You know the doctrine “not evil, just wrong”? That’s how my friends and I approach it. We disagree with each other, we argue about stuff, but we don’t sling mud. In Hollywood people are smart. The most creative, most talented people, those who rise to the top — they are smart people and they tend to be more libertarian. Obviously there are some outspoken liberals in Hollywood, but there are some outspoken conservatives as well. You don’t hear them as much because the conservative nature is “put your head down, keep grinding and let the chips fall.” They’re not trying to change the world, they’re not eager to change, they just want to — as William F Buckley said — “stand athwart history yelling ‘Stop!’”
Now I do get some people who say “I’ll never watch Firefly again, because you’re a conservative, Adam.” I see that on Twitter almost daily, and I just have to laugh, “Well then, who are you hurting with that?” But of course it really means “Adam, shut up!”
EveryJoe: Right. I’ve heard people say the same thing about Ender’s Game. They won’t read the book because they don’t like Orson Scott Card’s politics.
Adam: Yeah, the “tolerant crowd” is not really that tolerant. They’re only tolerant if you agree with them, because they’re determined to save the world and recreate it in their own image, and if you stand in the way, then you must be destroyed. That’s why they employ so many ad hominem attacks, just to destroy your personality or your personhood. It’s almost like a cult religion.
EveryJoe: Thomas Sowell talks about that a little bit actually. He says the conservatives end up viewing the left wing as naïve, but the left wing ends up viewing the conservatives as evil.
Adam: That’s correct. Whereas I say “not evil, just wrong.” Although there are limits to that, too. If the government gets too big then it does become evil. It becomes an unstoppable force. I think it was in Heaven On Earth, by Josh Muravchik, where he quotes — I forget who — basically, “Socialism: If you build it, they will leave.”
EveryJoe: Therefore it must build an Iron Curtain to keep them in.
EveryJoe: Does it worry you to be called evil by the game journalist community?
Adam: Honestly, no. The gaming community didn’t make me, and it can’t break me. It’s kind of an advantage for me that I’m only tangentially part of the gaming community. I’ve done some voice work, but I’m not reliant on it. So the threats, the doxing, all that stuff, that doesn’t scare me. “These punks don’t scare me!”
EveryJoe: So you don’t think their reach is as large as they think it is at the end of the day?
Adam: No, they are in an echo chamber. It’s kind of hilarious to watch it. Frankly, I’ve suffered these attacks before, and it was really taxing. But these guys, they’re not as clever as they think they are. The true political guys in Washington who I’ve dueled with on Twitter are way smarter. The game press, they don’t compare… Come on guys, step up your game!
EveryJoe: John C. Wright called such folks “an embarrassment to the forces of evil.”
Adam: (laughs) They are. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed but I know left wing jargon when I see it.
EveryJoe: Says the man who’s quoting Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions. But all right. I’ll accept your false humility.
Adam: I didn’t write it, I just read it.
EveryJoe: Yeah. Speaking of which have you ever thought about writing a book or entering politics directly?
Adam: No, no, no. God no! I wouldn’t want to take the pay cut!
EveryJoe: (laughs) Ok. So what should we expect to see from you next then?
Adam: I can give you a brief glimpse of a project that I’m working on called Ranger. Nathan Edmondson and I have created this. It’s a cool, dark, drama, an action-adventure through the jungles of alien planets.
EveryJoe: Is it a graphic novel or a series?
Adam: We intend it to be a series of graphic novels. Where it goes, at this point we don’t know, but that’s our intent. It’s finished, the coloring is done, the lettering is done, and we just have to print it up and send it out. Dark Horse, at this point, seems to be on board; they love the project. Who knows what this will turn into?
EveryJoe: That is a question I ask myself every day. Thanks for spending so much time with us, Adam. Anything you want to close with?
Adam: Just that I believe that gamers are programmed to win, and I’m glad they’re winning this word game, this war of words. Keep it up!
EveryJoe thanks Mr. Baldwin for speaking with us!
Get a glimpse of Ranger in the video below…