I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Davis Aurini, co-creator of The Sarkeesian Effect. The project has been met with some skepticism by the GamerGate community and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t one of those skeptics. However, the opportunity to speak with Davis had a large impact on how I see him as a person—and more importantly, the director of this project. Without further ado, the unaltered, unedited text of our interview in it’s entirety.
DF: Hi, Davis. Glad to have the opportunity to chat with you. First things first, please introduce yourself and your project to our readers who may not be familiar with The Sarkeesian Effect.
DA: The feeling’s mutual, Dallas, I’m pleased to be here on Reaxxion! As for myself; I’m a blogger, film-maker, and novelist who’s active in the Alternative Right; my partner in this, Jordan Owen, is also a novelist, as well as a musician, and a YouTube personality; you’d best describe his politics as ‘left-libertarian’.
The project we’re currently working on is titled The Sarkeesian Effect: Inside the World of Social Justice Warriors. It’s a feature-length documentary on the methodology of Social Justice, using the eponymous Sarkeesian as a lens through which we can look behind the scenes to see what’s really going on with these people.
Jordan approached me with the idea for this film last summer, after composing the score for my short-film Lust in the Time of Heartache; I immediately knew that it was the right idea, at the right time, and that he and I were the right people to do it: we’d both taken so much flak from the radical left that a little bit more wasn’t going to stop us. Fortuitously, right as we were preparing to launch our Patreon, #GamerGate erupted onto the scene; while our goals aren’t identical, we’re definitely in alignment. Where #GamerGate wants to expose the fraud of particular individuals, and demand accountability out of particular websites, we want to expose the general methodology which these individuals employ. Time and time again we’ve seen ‘Social Justice’ (working under various labels) infiltrate, subvert, and ultimately destroy any industry or movement which has come to their attention.
Our hope is that by putting it into an engaging, easy-to-understand documentary – by shining a bright light on the naked Emperor – we will prevent, not just the infiltration of gaming, but the ability of these Gramsci-fed Marxists to infiltrate social institutions in general.
DF: I know that you’re no stranger to catching flak from the ‘Social Justice’ community, a quick Google search of your name can attest to that. That said, were you surprised at some of the negative criticism coming from within the #GamerGate community itself? At the time of this writing, your Patreon has 407 backers and is lagging about $5,000 behind your initial production goal. Did you expect more support than you’ve received thus far?
DA: It’s been an uphill battle, and I’ll admit it’s been frustrating at times – almost makes me with I had Sarkeesian’s training in manipulating crowds – almost. In my mind, Rhetoric is one thing (I’m with Aristotle on that), but sleazy NLP-based marketing techniques are beyond the pale; heck, they’re one of the things we’re going to expose!
In retrospect, the challenges have been two-fold: the first is due to the nature of the battlefield, and the second is the nature of the enemy.
First, the Battlefield: the Social Justice movement is well-entrenched. They aren’t a conspiracy per se, but their fellow travellers exist throughout all of the cultural broadcast centres of our civilization – all of them save gaming, that is (not yet, anyway). Using these positions of power, they’ve constructed a narrative of villainy to serve their ends; their villains are largely fictitious, but that’s not the point; the villains exist merely as tools used silence the opposition. I’m speaking, of course, of all those racist, sexist, homophobic, right-wing, HateSpeeches! who never seem to materialize in substantive numbers.
Unfortunately, they’ve been very effective, and at the start of all of this I came down with a bad case of the Racist!‘s – all because I had the temerity to post a video arguing that racial hatred was a personality problem! I’d say this was ironic, but it wasn’t; as more and more people are starting to realize, Gramsci-ideologues have no interest in combating actual cases of racism, sexism, or whatever – they’re only interested in silencing their opposition.
This did prove to be an initial stumbling block, but God bless ’em – most of the folks of #GamerGate saw through it pretty quickly, and while some of them might still be wary of the Evil Canadian Monarchist, they’ve realized that I don’t actually suck the marrow out of childrens’ bones – not without their parents’ permission, at least.
The other challenge has been our Opposition – not what they’re doing, but who they are. As I said, they’re a bunch of Internet-based NLP employing scam artists – and here come Jordan and Davis, asking for money on the Internet!
Now this is the part where I need to take some responsibility: Jordan and I have been so busy filming that we’ve been doing a terrible job ‘marketing’ the project (and I mean good, honest, Nuka-Cola marketing – not the Multi-Level, Internet Billionaire, NLP nonsense). That’s something I’m working on correcting right now; the latest Teaser Video with Jack Thompson was a big hit, and I’m planning a number of other teasers that I expect to be equally well-received.
Ultimately, it’s up to us to earn people’s trust, and making excuses won’t do that. Thankfully, both Jordan and I know how to deal with adversity, and despite being under-budget we’ve been getting some great work done – more of which we’ll be releasing as time goes on.
DF: Of course, character assassination is one of the best weapons in any SJW’s arsenal. In my personal inquiries with friends and associates regarding The Sarkeesian Effect, the overall tone seems to be that of cautious optimism. I’d say you would be hard-pressed to find someone outside of the Social Justice crowd that would argue your direction with the documentary to be unjust.
That said, I’ve heard a lot of rumblings regarding the exact amount you are trying to fund. 5 months at $15,000 is certainly a lot of capital and many claim that what you’ve released thus far doesn’t reflect the budget in terms of production value. On the other hand, there are a lot of people claiming they could “do it better” on a smaller budget, though I’m personally not aware of any other active projects aiming to do so. What are your thoughts on this?
DA: While it’s hard to say for certain, I strongly suspect that many of these frugal filmmakers are SJW sockpuppets; I’ve had a number of them claim to have made better films than LITTOH on smaller budgets, but I’ve yet to see any evidence that these films actually exist. The simple fact of the matter is that film making is expensive – just look to your average film’s budget, even after you account for actor salaries – but that’s not much of an answer for those who are legitimately curious. I think the best response I can give you is to describe my philosophy of film making.
With any movie, it all comes down to compromise – “Art Through Adversity”, as Red Letter Media would say. Not just compromise between all the creative energies involved in making it, but compromise forced on you through actor availability, set availability, weather, and – yes – budget. It’s a series of endless problems and frustrations, but it’s in overcoming these problems that you wind up with something great (as far as I know, only one movie was ever made ‘perfectly’, and that was The Phantom Menace: ‘nuf said). Ideally, the audience won’t even notice all the corners you had to cut – a true maestro makes all of his fudges look like intentional choices.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t prepare for the problems: at the start of any production, you need to ask yourself: Which parts of my vision can be sacrificed?
There was a movie a while back called Primer which was notable – not just for being a great time travel story – but for it’s ridiculously small budget of $7000. When I watch something like that it gets me thinking about the artist’s original vision, what they considered crucial, and what they decided to cut.
In Primer the cuts are obvious, if you’ll forgive me for dissecting it. The bulk of the movie has only two people in it, it’s filmed on out-of-date cameras, the sets were either empty fields, their own homes, or storage lockers, and they didn’t have a talented writer to punch-up the script. What the movie did have was a author who’d thought long and hard about time travel, and actually managed to write a coherent time-travel plot (probably the first ever).
Contrast to LITTOH, which was much shorter, and more expensive: we had a large number of actors, professional stunt-men and martial-artists, one in-door location, and modern equipment (part of the goal was to ‘show off’ what we could do with the $10,000 grant) – but at the same time we couldn’t do multiple takes, nor could we film it at night, as we’d originally hoped; we went ‘wide’ with our money, while Primer went ‘tall’.
So to bring this around to The Sarkeesian Effect, what can we not afford to sacrifice?
1. Time: this movie is topical, we need to get it out ASAP – we can’t take a two-month break during filming to gather funds, and we can’t work part-time and film it on weekends.
2. Mobility: the interviewing is tightly scheduled – partly because these people we’re speaking with are busy, partly because they live in expensive cities – when our feet hit the ground, we need to move, and the sort of problems that get in our way often need to have money thrown at them.
3. Art: I love the documentary Fat Head, but let’s be frank: the animations in it suck. We need to make this movie look good because it’s rhetorical, not informative in nature (IE you don’t use science to prove that the Emperor’s naked – you use common sense).
What have we sacrificed?
1. Technical quality: note that I do not mean “It’s okay if it sounds terrible” (speaking of which, I’ll be re-releasing the first teaser with the good audio soon – that was laziness on my part as editor, not shortcomings of the raw footage), what I mean is that most people won’t notice minutiae, so long as the movie’s slick. Our Jack Thompson teaser was released under major technical limitations, and not even the SJW’s have noticed them yet (partly because I’m damned good at what I do).
2. Artistic design: we had some initial thoughts for an artistic take on the whole thing which had to be shelved; we barely had the budget to film as it was, let alone including the sort of stuff which would have mandated a crew.
I hope that addresses some of the concerns. Elsewhere, I’ve broken down where the money has gone thus far, but what it really boils down to is that money solves problems, and our primary focus right now is making a bloody good movie. Outside of that, our only goal is to survive the process; any profit we see will be on the back end once it’s released. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been an absolute a blast seeing places like New York and Miami, but our Patreon funding is not an honour I shoulder lightly; it’s also a heavy moral burden. I absolutely must pay back the trust placed in me by creating the best documentary I possibly can.
DF: That was a very thorough answer. You mentioned crowdsourced funding as a “heavy moral burden”. That choice of words intrigues me. It seems like the crowdsourcing boom is starting to die down, with a lot of the initial hopefulness from eager consumers involved with the platform being in vain time and time again. I can think of several projects I’ve personally funded that ended up ultimately being a disappointment and it’s refreshing to hear someone openly express understanding of the gravity behind having so many hopeful supporter’s cash in their wallet.
Could you touch briefly on this moral burden, what it means to you, and what that means in relation to those who decide to fund your current project?
DA: I’ve had a lot of people in my life tell me that I take things too seriously, when in my opinion they’re being far too flippant about things that matter. At the same time, I find that most people will panic and resort to recriminations whenever something goes wrong in their life (say, a vehicle breaking down in the middle of nowhere); when that sort of thing happens to me I do the opposite, I try and laugh it off and find a solution.
I guess what I’m saying is that we have a lot of low-quality people nowadays. I think there are two reasons for this.
First, we’re so wealthy that nothing matters anymore. Break a promise to somebody? Whatev’s. Nobody’s going to starve, or freeze, or wind up on the gallows over our petty betrayals. Second of all, we’re wealthy, but we don’t own anything – we rent and lease – and the fruit of our labour is theoretical. We fill out TPS reports about the monthly sales figures, and a paycheque gets deposited into our bank accounts; what did we actually do? What did we actually accomplish? How did we earn our money, and what to we have to show for our lives? Nothing but an apartment full of Ikea furniture, a leased sports car, a wardrobe made up of synthetic fibres, and blue-blocker sunglasses that we wear at night whenever we dress up as Mr Cool.
Everybody is a scam artist nowadays; our personalities are scams, our work is a scam, our accomplishments are scams, and deep down we all suspect it, which is why we work so hard to convince ourselves that we aren’t scam artists.
Is it any surprise that in a world like ours, that your average person who receives crowd-funding feels like they earned it? Like they were owed it?
Crowd funding isn’t pay that you received in exchange for a product; it’s a loan that you’ve been entrusted with, because your supporters believe you’ll pay them back with an awesome product.
In a certain sense this cuts to the core of #GamerGate: when people read my stuff, or watch my YouTube videos, I’m grateful – I’m not owed an audience, it’s the exact opposite, I owe my audience good content since they were kind enough to watch or read it. The mainstream gaming press feels entitled to their audience, even going so far as to bash them.
I think a lot of people need to get over themselves.
DF: I’m glad that you mentioned the Jack Thompson interview again, that’s something that I was hoping to touch on next. What was the thought process behind getting an interview with him? I’ve seen a lot of comparison between him and modern SJW figureheads like Sarkeesian, with some even referring to her as “the new Jack Thompson”.
I’ll admit, even I was surprised to see it. Do you have any response to some of the criticism being lobbed at the move such as the claim that your team is resurrecting the corpse of an already defeated “gamer enemy” to gain publicity?
DA: Upon releasing the video, Jordan and I were laughing, trying to figure out what angle the SJWs would take to undermine this one – especially given that Sarkeesian has played right into our hands over the past couple of weeks, getting her army of White Knights (I’m looking at you, Bob Chipman!) to argue that “at least she isn’t Jack Thompson!”
Y’know, when I put it that way it sets your question in a different light – they were the ones resurrecting him! The way we put together the second teaser was a tactical response to a flank they’d just opened up. “At least we’re not Jack Thompson”? No, you’re far, far worse than Jack Thompson – say what you will about him, he’s transparent about his beliefs, and his actions are direct.
We interviewed him before any of this occurred, however; so asking “Why did Davis and Jordan [Timestamp October 15th, 2014] want to interview Jack Thompson?” is a legitimate question.
The main thing we wanted to speak to Jack Thompson about was his own handling of the nasty emails he received; the parallel between him and Sarkeesian being self-evident. In his case, he was more than willing to publish the emails and say “Look at what assholes these guys are!”, but harassment was just a side-effect of what he was doing; at one point in our interview, he said “You don’t get into this to be popular.” I’m sure you can find a quote somewhere where he alludes to violent video games creating such an uncivil attitude, but that was never a foundational plank of his belief that games cause violence amongst children.
With Sarkeesian, the harassment is her argument. It’s part of her methodology. Before she can be a Damsel in Distress, she needs a Big Bad Wolf to attack her – so she provokes gamers, one or two idiots leave angry comments, and this ‘proves’ her argument.
If nobody had ever harassed Sarkeesian, she would have no argument, she’d be a nobody; harassment was a critical plank of her methodology. With Jack Thompson, the harassment he received was an annoyance.
DF: I’d like to touch on one more controversial subject before we wrap things up. There has been a lot of buzz in the GamerGate community about feeling “used” by people as a way to gain momentum for outside projects. Aside from your own project, the first one that comes to mind is Jennie Bharaj’s BasedGamer.
I must admit that I have a certain amount of skepticism regarding her motives behind the website. As someone who has received similar criticism, do you have an opinion on the site, her asking price of $50,000 dollars, and the public opinion that she’s asking too much, showing too little, and taking advantage of the current cultural climate in gaming?
DA: BasedGamer is something I’ve addressed publicly (albeit on Twitter), since the perceptual similarities between both our projects is obvious.
My stance is simply this: I neither endorse, nor denounce, BasedGamer. I don’t yet have enough information to offer an opinion either way.
On the one hand, $50k sounds like a lot of money, but I don’t know what she’s planning to do with it. It’s a field I’m ignorant of. $15k for The Sarkeesian Effect likewise seems like a lot of money, but as I stated above, film making is expensive; if all we were doing was releasing a bunch of YouTube shorts that price tag would be ridiculous – but for a feature film, it’s reasonable (it’s actually insanely cheap).
Similarly, Bharaj is going to have to justify the pricetag of BasedGamer. As both Return of Kings and Reaxxion demonstrate, it’s possible to create a top-notch web-zine through elbow grease and a small amount of up-front capital (I would guess that Roosh put in about $2,000 of his own money into both projects). What is she doing that’s different?
Skepticism is just due diligence in my eyes, but we cannot let it turn into motivated skepticism. If you’ve ever tried to convince a Social Justice Warrior of the (obvious and self-evident) fact that men and women are different, and just happen to prefer different types of games, you’ll know what I mean by ‘motivated skepticism’; no proof in the world is ever sufficient for these skeptics.
One of the oddities of our current social order is that we don’t mind it when people make six figures for shuffling paper all day (Mrs Obama making $300k as a “Diversity Coordinator”, for instance), but as soon as somebody makes money off of the Internet, people want to howl about it. I have no issue with Bharaj earning a living doing something positive; I hope she has a plan that justifies a price of $50k, and I’m open-minded to the possibility that she does.
DF: Davis, I’d like to thank you for your time and input. I’m sure you won’t be swaying SJW opinions, but hopefully those on the fence have a clearer picture of the project and the workings behind it. I’ll give you the floor for a final statement to our readers if you have any lingering thoughts you would like to share. It’s been a pleasure interviewing you.
DA: I’d like to leave off with a question: how do we stop this from happening next time?
The crisis of #GamerGate is essentially this: a bunch of decent people have been minding their own business, dealing straight and fairly with one another as best they can, while in their midst are a bunch of adders; people who share cruel gossip, people who ask disingenuous questions, people who seek out power but shirk the responsibility.
I am so bloody proud of everybody in #GamerGate who’s figuring this out: six months ago I would have felt like a conspiracy nut talking about these people, and their manipulative argument tactics. For most decent people, it’s hard to believe that anybody would enter an argument with such subversive and destructive motives. Iconoclasts throughout history have run into this problem – people witnessing the argument assumes that it’s being waged fairly on both sides. As more and more people engage with these SJWs over #GamerGate, however, they’re quickly realizing what sort of belly-crawling vermin we’re dealing with.
So my question is this: once we win this battle (and we will win), how do we stop this from happening again? What sort of social standards do we set up to ensure that the manipulators are kept in their rat holes, upbraided and shamed any time hey try and start one of their witch hunts? These people have existed throughout all of history – it’s not a problem that’s ever going away – but what can we do to make it that much harder for them?
This is the age old question of ethics, law, and civility of course – but it’s one worth reflecting on.
Are you someone of note in the gaming industry? Developing a game you think would interest our readers? Have a personal experience related to GamerGate you’d like to express to a like-minded community? Want to tell me to check my privilege? For all of the above (and other inquiries) feel free to drop me a message via email at [email protected].