Absolute Zero – An Interview with BoneGolem

time_for_ethics_by_vinnythecake-d8swts5Ladies and gentlemen, today I have something special and exclusive tied to #GamerGate and #DeepFreeze. For those not in the known, www.deepfreeze.it is a database-like site born from the GamerGate controversy. It contains a list of people and sites related to game journalism and each one has various entries about their involvement in possible breaches of ethics in the profession. Considering the weight of the industry and how much its situation is starting to look like 1983 all over again, there’s no understating the importance of this kind of knowledge.

The brain behind the site, BoneGolem, has accepted to be interviewed by me. To talk about his motivations, his creature and to relay a message to #GamerGate.

Disclaimer – Me and BoneGolem have met before and during his venture into DeepFreeze. Never in person, but we’re on cordial terms and keep in touch. Also, I’m a staunch #GamerGate supporter.

Tell us something about yourself. Just to break the narrative that we’re all right wing americans stuck in our parents’ basements who dropped out of high school. Where are you from? And what’s your level of education?

BG: I’ve left my identity vague on purpose to avoid doxing — nothing incriminating in my past and it wouldn’t be a significant issue, but just to be on the safe side.

I have a wine farm in northern Italy. My day job is in marketing, and mostly involves graphic design. I’ve got a 3 year degree in Communication — ironically, my degree was geared towards journalism and editorial, so it could be said I went to journalism school. Heard the argument about journalistic objectivity from my teachers, too — taken it more critically than Klepek and Schreier.

958I’ve always been on the most extremist left-wing political side — although it was more about the fact that Italy’s outrageously corrupt media magnate happened to be right-wing, and I always supported the worst enemies it had.

I think it’s funny. I’ve gone from being accused of being a communist to being accused of being right wing, while always saying the same things. Like many left-wing GamerGate supporters, I’ve been strongly reconsidering my views of the right in light of our downright unbelievable opposition. I’ve seen the Italian gay community struggle against a catholic church whose pope called homosexuals “sick people to correct” and a right wing government whose Equal Opportunity minister downright said representation is an issue about women and certainly not about gay people. When I see American SJWs resort to bullying and shaming tactics like they’re doing, I imagine the damage they’re doing to legitimately struggling people and my blood downright boils.

As a fellow Italian, I know what you mean. And speaking of GamerGate, how did you first come into contact with it?

BG: I’ve discovered 4chan 8 years or so ago, when I was already significantly older than most of the fanbase. Always had /v/ as my homeboard.

I visited sparingly, and posted even less — I think I’ve accumulated about 30 posts in 8 years, and they were mostly cringe-worthy stuff. I mostly lurked. I happened to be lurking in the early Zoe Quinn threads, so when the media started their blitz I already knew how horribly they were lying. I went from bemusedly lurking to actively participating roughly when Totilo handwaved the Grayson CoI — because we all know Grayson never had any conflict of interest — and the“gamers are dead” articles came out. Ironically, I barely posted on /v/ and never made any OC before — Totilo and Alexander basically dragged me kicking and screaming out of my inaction.

What pushed me in GamerGate was a mix of my hate for corrupt journalism in general — you’re well aware about Berlusconi’s Italy and how much media allowed him to stay in power and ruin our country — and the media slander on people I perceived as my friends. I’ve written about my motivation already.

For those reading who are not italian, what do you say are the parallels between the corruption exposed by GamerGate and the corruption in our country?

BG: Well, our country’s had it worse — pretty sure no game journalist has had ties with the mafia, had sexual relationships with minors and escaped countless legal proceedings because he was rewriting the law in the parliament at the time.

18dOn the other hand, Berlusconi’s successful dismissal of his blatant improprieties came through a de-facto monopoly on the media — although, again, on a much larger scale and with much more dramatic effect than what we’re dealing with now. We see a lot of points in common between manipulation by Berlusconi’s media and GamerGate-criticized journalism. For instance, the fact that pointing out improprieties is labeled politically — “Communist judges” were the reason Berlusconi had so many processes, much like “right-wing misogynists” is the label for people pointing out journalistic corruption. The target of criticism also claims to be “persecuted” by “haters”.

Most notably, the substantial media blackout on information means that a lot of people defend the corrupt parties due to being dreadfully uninformed.

There’s also a key difference, though: while opposition to Berlusconi, in Italy, has been largely unsuccessful, GamerGate is doing pretty well so far — mostly due to the fact that it got started in a time and place where internet and social media made it much harder for information to be suppressed, and due to the fact that gamers have shown themselves to be outrageously tenacious and resourceful.

To be fair, that same treatment Berlusconi got is now being given to the left governments that followed. Renzi just turned us back into a totalitarian state but they treat it like a victory for democracy.

But enough about Italian politics. Now, about Deepfreeze. How was the concept for the site born?

BG: Agreed, Renzi is also a pig. Let’s stop discussing Italian politics, since the only thing we accomplish is getting pissed.

Well, I started as a regular Twitter grunt, but very soon I saw that a lot of times I was repeating the same points, so I thought that it’d be interesting to type up some of those points in some form that would be easy to share — so I started making infographs, starting with the history of corruption in gaming journalism since a lot of people kept confusing GamerGate with one individual scandal.

After the first couple, these infographs taking a longer form, and in my head I sort of started imagining them as “representatives” of individual improprieties, like CollusionCronyism or Sensationalism. I liked the idea of an encyclopedia of game journalism issues — Oliver Campbell had, earlier in the controversy, spoken about the same thing, basically, with the tag “#OpDeepFreeze”.

2015-05-11_16h51_54Seeing one Reddit post breaking up all issues with Schreier, I liked the idea of individual sheets, and I started toying with some icons representing this individual problems in game journalism (because when I have nothing to do I make icons, that’s constant). I made a playful post on /v/, just saying that a site like that sounded like a good idea — this post got overwhelming praise, got screencapped and tweeted by a major GamerGate account and got very positive feedback on Twitter as well, including retweets by Campbell and my personal idol William Usher.

I was looking for a way to take something out of all I learned and did in these months in GamerGate, to keep doing what I was doing in a more financially sustainable way — I was planning to apply for a job in journalism. A site of my own sounded like a good idea for that, and it seemed like the idea had potential, so I registered the domain and started working on it. I realized on the way that putting ads on the site, or setting up a Patreon, would’ve been an ethical issue, so I got rid of that — because I’ve really got a lot of talents, but my talent for saddling myself with very specialized and difficult work for free is absolutely unsurpassed.

I feel you, man. At least set up a paypal or something for donations. Site hosting ain’t free.

BG: It’s cheap enough. I haven’t picked one of those fancy dedicated servers. I think DeepFreeze, given the purpose it has, should adhere to immaculate standards. It should offer near-perfect transparency and independence, otherwise how can I dare to speak for everyone? Accepting donations is definitely something I’m very reluctant about. Also, I’m fairly well-off financially, and the thought of someone working minimum wage sacrificing a luxury to send me money doesn’t sit well with me, especially considering that, between middleman and exchange, a $ 10 donation would become € 5 in my pocket.

Exactly how does Deep Freeze work? What’s the process that applies a new blot on a journalist’s rap sheet, so to speak?

BG: Ideally, I do nothing. I established guidelines before launching the site. Then is where I struggled, peer-reviewing stuff every step of the way, trying to find the most objective and fair criteria, tested them, got feedback, refined them. Now, it’s just looking at the incident, look at guidelines, decide. Only real work is trying to phrase the entry clearly, and finding reference.

I got the initial info dump from all the stuff I covered and what I remembered from months of lurking 8chan and KiA. Now, I imagine I’ll just look at stuff that gets posted somewhere or submitted to me. Or, y’know, just look a at @BoogiepopRobin‘s feed — man has dug up more stuff than the Bagger 288, can hardly keep up with him despite the fact that his stuff is so well-organized his entries basically write themselves.

Can you talk about these guidelines? Are they available to read on the site?

2015-05-11_16h52_54BG: Obviously! The general guidelines are on the About page, whereas the individual emblem guidelines are on the Entries page. Ideally, someone should be able to look at an emblem and be able to precisely understand every step of my reasoning for it.

Following the feedback I received after DeepFreeze’s launch, I’ve started drafting a more complete document clarifying all fringe cases and all the issues that I received the most feedback from — again, the idea is that people have a very clear and transparent idea of what I’m doing, and all the information required to call me out if I make a mistake. Some of these should’ve been online since the site’s start — this was a mistake, and one I’m very sorry about. These updates should appear here when I’m done drafting them. It’s a long document.

Well, nothing that a free afternoon won’t solve.

BG: I’ve been at it for two days now. It’s a mess to write and to properly source.

Which entry gave you the most trouble?

BG: As, in, criticism? Antis are all over the Gies Sensationalism entry — claiming that I’m criticizing him for “giving a low review score”, whereas I’m criticizing him because there’s a strong appearance that he’s inciting scandal for clicks. A lot of people also have had legitimate issues with this framing, so I’ve made a full explanation of my thought process for that one.

Bzs-CpbCcAAuOu-Antis also grasped at straws to criticize the fact that Burch has an entry where “his sin” is having a portrait by Argandona. It’s a placeholder entry, with a Trivia emblem, it’s there because Burch has outed himself in a CoI and may be involved in another, I haven’t gotten around to filing them.

The biggest criticism I got is that DF filing all GameJournoPros members with a Collusion emblem is too harsh. This is very true, and has remained in the final version of DF because back when I inserted GJP memberships different guidelines were in actions. I’m writing down some detailed guidelines explaining my thought process on that (they will be here when they’re done), and I’m looking into ways to file at least a few of GJP memberships on Trivia emblems.

Wow. You actually take criticism for your work and try to solve the problems highlighted by it? Preposterous!

BG: If I don’t, I might as well close up the site. People have called out some screw-ups. There are certainly screw-ups that they haven’t caught (I caught a couple myself, mostly related to entries filed before DF guidelines were consolidated). There will be more. An ocean of screwups. I’m an amateur.

DeepFreeze, in itself, is something that shouldn’t exist, that is justified only by the extraordinary circumstances that have preceded it. You have to remember that I’m not the SPJ, not a journalist, just a guy forced into this by an absurd situation. I’m the guy who half-destroys his sink with makeshift tubing because the plumber constantly refuses to come fix it and he’s tired of the constant flooding. Actually, that’s what GamerGate in general is, now that I think of it.

One last question for you. Deepfreeze’s focus is on people involved in Game Journalism. Do you think a database like this for more areas of journalism would be useful?

propagandaBG: It absolutely would be. As stated at the start of this talk, there’s absolutely no comparing the damage these journalists have been doing to videogame culture with their corruption to the damage mainstream media has done to Italy.

For now, though, that’s unsustainable. I have been in GamerGate since the very first Zoepost threads, I could quote you by memory half the staff of most game journalism sites, and I’ve had a juggernaut of motivated, skilled people digging up stuff on them. With MSM, that’s nothing I have — I am very reluctant to even add the many dishonest pieces on GamerGate because I feel it would be unfair, since similar offenses not involving stuff I’m well-informed on wouldn’t be filed due to lack of resources. As such, right now DF only files MSM journalists (as well as non-journalists) if they’re involved in game journalism scandals — the reasoning being, it’s unfair to single them out, but it would be more unfair to not file them when a game journalist that did the very same thing is listed.

I think MSM should be the real, more important goal of DeepFreeze. But it’s not a goal that I can accomplish — if DF ever gets there, it will be carried by someone else.

Hopefully he/she comes up soon. Thanks for your time. Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

2015-05-11_17h02_11BG: Well, just to accept my apologies and to be patient. I’ve been receiving a lot of feedback. A lot of it is pointing out stuff that is very important to fix — even “salty” anti-GG people are pointing out some actual problems, let alone the many GGers that are helping out — especially on the /deepfreeze/ homeboard on 8chan, which is full of beautiful, information-filled posts and that I can never manage to give the due attention to.

I recognize the issues. I will work to improve them. If you have written me, posted somewhere chances are I’ve seen it. But I am alone, working in my free time, and can’t be everywhere at once. I’ve spent a full day replying to people on social media, explaining them things that are spelled out in full in the updated guidelines — all time I should have spent on writing down those guidelines. I suck at this. Sadly, you’ll have to expect a slow pace with these things.

And, also, I’d like to thank them. GamerGate has enacted some very significant change, thanks to all of you. If we had you people with you ten years ago, Italy wouldn’t be in the mess it is now. Don’t stop.

About Meinos Kaen

Meinos Kaen is the secret author identity of one Simone Simeone, born and raised in Italy since anno domini 1988. You’ll never find a person with a harder accent to pin to a precise geographical location, be it Italian or English he’s speaking. God help us all if he ever manages to actually learn Japanese.
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2 Responses to Absolute Zero – An Interview with BoneGolem

  1. anon-kun says:

    Cloudflare is pretty awesome at saving bandwidth, if you ever need it.

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