Outgroup Boxing and Labeling (ID Politics)

This post is from a Twitlonger from late 2015 #GamerGate that addressed the state of things at that point in time. While it has some dated elements, it is still important from a historical perspective, and contains information worth preserving.


A while back I wrote this twitlonger to address a practice I was beginning to see crop up on KiA and Twitter in particular. I believed that a prominent figure was falling into this pattern of thinking, so I made a twitlonger addressing them personally. They may have interpreted it as a personal attack and asked me to stop contacting them, so I respected their wishes. I am reposting it now because it is more relevant than ever, this practice has become even more widespread, with more and more prominent figures using it. I have removed all references to the original recipient and added some updates. The original was made two whole months ago almost to the day, but it rings even more true today. I am starting to think some people are using these identity politics-based tactics on purpose.

Part 1: Outgroup boxing and labeling
This is something that all of #GamerGate should be familiar with by now. The press does this daily, SJWs do this daily, it is an effective but thoroughly fallacious tactic. I call it outgroup boxing and labeling because… that’s what it is, you force a portion of your outgroup in to a box, and then label them. Here is a general guide on how to perform outgroup boxing:

1. Find a group with some unsavory members. If no unsavory members can be found, assign some to it anyway. Transform the group’s name in to a label.
2. Perform a fallacy of composition to establish that, since some members of this group are unsavory, the entire group is, and the group label should be treated as a pejorative term.
3. Find a member of your outgroup that you dislike, want to silence, or want to be held in lower esteem among your ingroup
4. Slap the label on that person. Use Kafkatraps if they try to resist.
5. Perform a fallacious hasty generalization to assume that all negative traits associated with the group are also associated with the person who was just labeled.

This tactic should be familiar to #GamerGate because it is exactly what the press has done to participants in the consumer revolt. Let’s follow the steps:

1 and 2: GamerGate has doxers and harassers in it, therefore GamerGate is a pejorative label for misogynists in gaming.
3: I dislike Qu Qu’s ideas about ethics in gaming media
4: I will label Qu Qu as a GamerGater, despite the fact that he resists the usage of gamergate as a group/community/identity label. His resistance will be taken as proof of his group membership.
5: I will assume that Qu Qu supports the harassment of women, and will therefore assign a lower value to his speech.

You can’t reason with GamerGaters, journalists told Koretzky. You can’t please them. All GamerGaters hate games journalists, and therefore their critical feedback should not have the same weight as a group that is typically uncritical. Oh wait, no, that’s a direct reference (almost verbatim) to what some participants in GG have said about each other. Sorry, I got mixed up there.

This tactic has also been used against MRAs. Observe:
1 and 2: Paul Elam is an MRA
3: I dislike the Honey Badgers
4: I will label HBB as an MRA group (from what I have seen, they rarely use this term, preferring to call themselves men’s issue advocates)
5: I will assume that HBB supports every idea that Paul Elam supports.

Ready to get meta?
1 and 2: MRAs have The Honey Badgers in them, and so does GamerGate
3: I dislike GamerGate, and have already established MRA as a pejorative.
4: I will label GamerGate as an MRA group.
5: I will assume GamerGate supports every idea that Paul Elam supports.

See how this is a fallacious argument? There are basically three fallacies at play here. A fallacy of composition (making assumptions about the whole of a group based off some part), the fallacious and often unfalsifiable application of the label itself to an individual, and finally the hasty generalization used to perjure the person to whom the label is applied.

Now, here is where things get a bit uncomfortable. Let us set up a hypothetical situation. You are a participant within the consumer revolt. You have ideas, good ideas, but ideas that go against the goals of some other individuals participating in the revolt. Or, against the goals of some cliques that have formed. Your ideas might actually come out on top if there was an open marketplace of ideas, but your ideas can be squashed by underhanded tactics if the well is sufficiently poisoned. To discredit you, they label you as Ayyteam, Triangles, IRC, ggrevolt [or DDM, which is an increasingly popular label since this post was originally made], despite there being little evidence of participation in some of these groups or communities. You can not find a way to disprove these accusations, because none of those groups are well defined. However, the burden of proof falls to you. Due to this, everyone makes assumptions about your character. “All of group X hates Y”, they say, and then state that your ideas and opinions should not not have the same weight as everyone else’s.

Even if you somehow manage to disprove membership in these groups, the damage has already been done. The label hangs around, people remember the accusation more than the disproof.

Sometimes, they will manage to find a correct label for you, perhaps a label that actually corresponds to a community that you go to. That is when the hasty generalizations and fallacies of composition will be thrown in. You’ll start hearing things like “this group is so ‘small’, that every member can be generalized to be like every other”. And again, the well is poisoned, your ideas and opinions are labeled as not having the same weight as everyone else’s, not due to the content of your ideas or even the content of your character, but simply due to a community or platform that you decide to use, or the people you decide to associate with.

Wait, this isn’t a hypothetical. THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENS. I’ve seen it play out repeatedly on Kotaku in Action. [Since this post was originally made, it has spread to Twitter and even /v/] Just not to me… yet. Who knows? Maybe this Twitlonger will be enough to tip the scales and I will finally have these false labels slapped on me!

[Since this post was first made, I AM starting to see it get applied to me… Foresight’s a bitch, eh?]

Anyway, I will conclude this section by stating that outgroup boxing and labeling is completely fallacious. Don’t do it.

Part 2: Ill-defined sets

The terms “Ayyteam”, “ggrevolt”, and such are completely useless as group labels.

Why? Well, how can you prove if someone is in those groups? How can they disprove it once they are labeled if the label was erroneous?

If you are using these labels when performing outgroup boxing, chances are you are introducing another fallacy, an association fallacy, as generally people are labeled ayyteam or ggrevolt based off of who they talk to. Your claim to assign lower value to the speech of the labeled individual should therefore be completely ignored.

Even if you manage to create a way to strictly define these sets and determine who is in them and who is not in them, then you still fall victim to hasty generalizations when you assume that every member of the set shares ANY criteria other than those that you have determined place them within the set. In other words, if you say “everyone who says certain things is a poopyhead”, ALL that you can guarantee is that all poopyheads will say those certain things. They may all have very different goals, motivations, desires, tactics, and so on. They may have nothing else in common.

Part 3: Establishing a hierarchy within the consumer revolt.

GamerGate, to me, is a series of events. One of these events is a consumer revolt, a form of emergent protest.

GamerGate is not the first emergent protest. One that you might have heard of that happened before is Occupy Wall St.

In the early days of Occupy, it seemed like they were going to accomplish something! But then it all fell apart due to the establishment of hierarchies. Namely, the progressive stack. The creation of a criteria by which some people’s speech should be valued less than others. This criteria was based off of group membership, if you were in certain groups (straight cis white male, for example) then your ideas should not have the same weight as a group who was historically disadvantaged.

The establishment of hierarchies KILLS emergent protests. What I see EVERYWHERE right now, among prominent figures, their followers, and even lone wolves, is the establishment of an informal hierarchy, that certain ill-defined groups should have their feedback carry less weight. This flies directly in the face of the individualistic, egalitarian spirit that the revolt was started with. That ideas should stand on their own merits.

Part 4: Utility
I am not trying to police anyone’s speech. I am responding to speech with speech of my own. Everyone is free to go around, outgroup boxing and labeling, using ill-defined sets, and establishing hierarchies. I’m just opining on how bad of an idea I find this. This form of thinking is convenient. Human nature, almost.


before you engage in these practices for your own convenience, think… is it really worth it? Is the legitimization of outgroup boxing and labeling as a tactic is worth it? Is possibly applying false accusations against individuals due to ill-defined sets, accusations that can stick with them FOREVER, worth it? Is eroding the individualistic and egalitarian nature of the consumer revolt worth it? If one believes it is is, by all means, continue to perform these practices for one’s own personal convenience. But don’t expect any respect for acting only in one’s own rational self-interest.





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