This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
(Content warning for this series: over these two articles I’m going to touch on sexual abuse, mental health issues, suicide, and Gamergate. If you aren’t up for such subjects, maybe skip these.)
As outlined in the first part of this article, the popular rumours smearing Dungeons & Dragons were largely driven by the James Dallas Egbert III case, but soon took on a life of their own. It would take other hands, however, to really bring them to the absurd pitch that they’d reach during the Satanic Panic – and the primary driver of that process was Patricia Pulling.
You can see Pulling as the David Icke of Dungeons & Dragons conspiracy theories: many of her ideas were parroted from others, her credentials and competence as a researcher and investigator were wildly overstated, and she’s mostly notable for weaving all of the different theories she picked up from others into a dizzyingly paranoid collage, a fear-riddled look at the world in which almost anything she didn’t approve of was part of a grand conspiracy to destroy America’s children.
The major difference between Pulling and Icke is this: in Britain we laugh at our extreme conspiracy theorists, in America they get elected President. Whilst Pulling never attained quite that level of power she did end up with an undue level of influence – particularly within police forces which turned to her as a consultant on “occult crime” – which resulted in her being treated as an expert in criminal cases when in fact her credentials were not up to snuff. (If you want an illustration of how dangerous it is to have unqualified amateurs posing as experts and hyping their personal conspiracy theories to the police, you could do a lot worse than doing some Googling on the subject of the West Memphis Three.)
There’s every reason to have sympathy for Pulling; it’s clear that her stance wasn’t based on some sort of calculating attempt to court fame and controversy, but was born out of genuine grief and the confusion which comes with bereavement. Nonetheless, I have to be kind of harsh on her here, because as well as driving a campaign of mistrust against a harmless hobby, Pulling also was an enthusiastic advocate of conspiracy theories which caused even greater harm than a parent throwing a kid’s D&D manuals in the trash. (In particular, the Satanic Ritual Abuse scandal had the twin effects of ruining a number of lives based on absolutely fictional accusations on the one hand, exploiting children in order to drive a witch hunt on the other, and on the third hand making the process of safeguarding children that much harder.)
Let’s go back to the start of Pat’s story. Irving “Bink” Pulling, Patricia’s son, committed suicide by gunshot in 1982. It is evident that he had severe mental health issues leading up to that; reportedly his behaviour had become erratic, to the point where before his suicide he is believed to have killed some of the family pets. It is also evident that he was a bit of an outsider – he was apparently very keen on Hitler, for instance, and when running for office in his school elections he was unable to find anyone willing to be his campaign manager.
None of this can be attributed with any confidence to Dungeons & Dragons; at most, these constitute reasons why someone might have a bad experience in a Dungeons & Dragons group, because a) teen gamers are not necessarily going to be brilliantly equipped to deal with someone who’s going through a severe depression with violent impulses and b) wheeling out your ideas about how Hitler wasn’t so bad after all is going to get you thrown out of any gaming group which hasn’t gone full alt-right. Even had a compulsive obsession with Dungeons & Dragons or fantasy been a factor in Bink’s issues, it’s not really possible to make an insulated society absent of anything which someone in an acute mental health crisis might fixate on unhealthily; the nature of mental illness is such that if you’re prone to developing delusional or obsessive fixations, you’re going to find a subject to develop them about, and I’d be willing to be that the number of people whose mental health symptoms include an unhealthy relationship with D&D is and always has been absolutely microscopic compared to the number whose symptoms include an unhealthy relationship with, say, the Bible.
However, a police officer investigating the aftermath of Bink’s suicide talked about the alleged occult connections of Dungeons & Dragons with Pat, after noting the presence of D&D manuals among Bink’s possession. Desperate for an explanation as to what happened, Pat took that officer’s words to heart, and a crusader was born. Unsuccessful lawsuits against Bink’s school (for allowing a D&D club on campus) and TSR, Inc. (for publishing the game) did not dissuade her; she obtained a private investigator’s licence (through, as later established, a process which required little to no actual experience) and used that easily-won credential to set herself up as a self-taught expert on the subject of occult conspiracies.
She established a campaign group, Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons, which gained international reach before it ultimately collapsed, and through that put out pamphlets decrying the game. An example is found on The Escapist here (not, confusingly, the videogame site, but an earlier site dedicated to countering the urban myths Pulling and others promoted); the text resembles less the product of a capable, competent investigator’s report and more an incoherent extract from Charlie Kelly’s Pepe Silvia investigation notes. Eventually, with a competent co-author (Kathy Cawthon) turning her ramblings into something resembling commercially acceptable prose, Pulling produced The Devil’s Web: Who Is Stalking Your Children For Satan? – her conspiracy theory magnum opus.
Bink’s death casts a long shadow over the book; at the start you have a photo of him, a photo of his grave, and a poem about his death from his sister Melissa. Naturally, Pulling leads with an account of Bink’s suicide and its aftermath, though one which reads in such a sensationalised way that I kind of feel like Cawthon was dropping the ball as ghostwriter by not toning it down a bit. When you can’t make your co-author’s story sound credible when they are reporting events which genuinely, objectively, verifiably happened, you’re not going to make them sound plausible when they’re saying something a bit more contentious. The section also gives the first major example of Pulling’s penchant for completely absurd analogies, in which she claims that Dungeon Masters exert a level of authority over players comparable to that which Jim Jones enjoyed in Jonestown. (Any Dungeon Masters reading this just rolled their eyes at the idea that they can exert any control over their players whatsoever.)
She also claims that as research she played D&D with a group of college gamers every day for a month, though if that’s the case she surely wouldn’t have mischaracterised and misinterpreted game texts as flagrantly as she does here and in other BADD materials – at least, she wouldn’t if she were arguing in good faith. Another claim she makes is that Bink’s suicide note accurately predicted that she would have another child a year after his death. Between this and her apparent belief in the real life effectiveness of a “killing curse” put on Bink’s character in the game, Pulling shows the first of several instances of magical thinking.
In fact, one of the ways The Devil’s Web happens to be accidentally interesting is how it reveals great, gaping flaws in Pulling’s credentials and research methodology. Despite her alleged years of research into the subject of the occult, Pulling turns out to be so ignorant as to not even be able to keep basic terminology straight – at one point she describes a grimoire as a ritual, another she correctly describes it as a book. Her lists of occult crimes, plucked from the headlines of various newspapers, are thick on unsubstantiated rumour and a sprinkle of arrests, but thin on convictions – suggesting a paucity of evidence that would actually stand up in court.
Where Pulling actually cites a specific case, it’s frequently in the context of situations where abusive adults used RPGs or other hobbies or interests that Pulling disapproves of to groom and exploit children or teenagers. That’s obviously awful, but what she doesn’t seem to realise that if all of those forms of entertainment vanished tomorrow you’d still get adults attempting to groom vulnerable kids using whatever means were still available to them. Blaming Dungeons & Dragons for an adult abusing teens is like blaming Werther’s Originals for an abductor luring a kid into their car with a bag of boiled sweets.
As well as showing a flawed approach to gathering evidence, Pulling also seems unable to draw sensible conclusions based on the evidence she collects; she regularly ends up taking a stance which isn’t actually internally consistent on its own terms. For instance, she strongly pushes the idea that children and teenagers need to be supervised as they play rather than roaming freely to be picked up by adults with bad agendas. That might be a reasonable enough stance to take if, like Pulling, you consider young people to be highly vulnerable to such grooming – except Bink’s Dungeons & Dragons involvement was in the context of a school club supervised by teachers, which is precisely the sort of supervised activity she’s advocating here.
There’s really no point in me directly debunking most of Pulling’s absurd claims about D&D – that it encourages suicide, that participants routinely lose the ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality, that it’s a real-world occult manual which gives sufficient detail on spellcasting to allow participants to cast spells, that playing a fictional character who worships a fictional deity is in any way an act of real-world idolatry, and so on and so forth. Others have done so perfectly well – Mike Stackpole in The Pulling Report pretty much demolished both Pulling’s anti-RPG arguments and her credibility as a researcher and investigator.
For the purposes of this review I am more interested in the wider web of Satanic conspiracy that Pulling asserted that RPGs were an integral part of – for the book does not restrict itself to Dungeons & Dragons. It exists in a larger tradition of Satanic Panic-flavoured conspiracy theory; Pulling was not the only person pushing the idea that vast occult conspiracies permeated American life, and she was only too glad to promote the ideas of others in the same field, most of whom are coming from a fringe Christian perspective.
For instance, the introduction to the book is penned by Maury Terry, who spends most of it in self-promotion, Terry being the author of The Ultimate Evil, which tried to lend substance to Son of Sam serial killer David Berkowitz’ dubious claims that he was part of a cult and had only been responsible for three of the eight murders he was convicted for, the other five being done by other cultists. Hardline Christian conspiracy theorists of the sort that Pulling was cosying up to seem to be suckers for convicts pushing a conversion-and-repentance story; Berkowitz is far from the only murderer from the period to have made claims of occult conspiracy for attention and sympathy; Pulling buys into his story and also the theory that Henry Lee Lucas was part of a cult called The Hand of Death.
One interesting thing about Pulling is that, though she buys into a lot of conspiracy theories that grew in an evangelical Christian idiom and her ideas tended to find fertile ground in that same zeitgeist, she doesn’t seem to have been a Christian herself – she mentions being Jewish in the book (though this is in the context of her discussion of Bink’s death, and it isn’t impossible that she converted since). One wonders how many members of Pulling’s audience, particularly those not aware of her background, believed in equally implausible conspiracy theories such as the blood libel – which I do not raise here lightly but cannot entirely ignore, given the massive range of parallels between it and the Satanic Panic. (In particular, the idea that conspiracies of ne’er-do-wells are secretly abducting and sacrificing people to Satan – a concept that Pulling very enthusiastically pushes – is almost identical to blood libel conspiracy theories of ages past, with literally the only difference being that there isn’t an overtly antisemitic spin to the material here.)
Pulling is able to navigate this religious difference by pushing a conclusion amenable to both conservative Christians and conservative Jewish readers: in her epilogue Pulling states clearly that she considers it best if children stick to the religion of their family, and that she considers anything which might prompt them to stray from that religion as being a serious problem. This is nothing less than a blanket denial of children’s First Amendment freedom of religion rights, but it’s evident that Pulling has reservations about this whole First Amendment thing anyway, what with the way it causes judges to smack down nuisance lawsuits claiming Ozzy Osbourne’s lyrics caused a teen suicide or otherwise allows religions other than those Pulling considers decent enough to exist.
Were Pulling to restrict her concerns to teens idly dabbling in the occult, she might have sounded a bit more plausible – but instead she embraces the idea of widespread cult networks acting in a vast conspiracy. Among the more fanciful claims she cites here is a suggestion that Henry Lee Lucas had links to the Matamoros killers simply because he suggested there might be occult activity in the region prior to the news breaking (it’s a tourist town and the killers there were playing on existing traditions, of course Lucas could have suggested occult activity there) and that cults, not UFOs, are responsible for the cattle mutilation phenomenon.
Her main piece of evidence for this last bit is a report supposedly sent to her anonymously which was, she claimed, from an official government investigation into the cult-cattle claims, but the report relies on some incredibly fanciful testimony from two prisoners and Pulling admits that she was unable to corroborate most of the details in it. She also excises sufficient information to make it near-impossible for readers to do their own corroboration. (As Michael Stackpole would later note, it’s funny how the vast Satanic ritual sacrifice conspiracy is incredibly efficient at hiding all the human beings they sacrifice, but are simultaneously very sloppy about hiding animal victims – but at the same time put a lot of energy into making it look like UFOs did the mutilations.)
There’s an entire chapter on heavy metal and black metal. It’s to be expected that Pulling’s definition of black metal would look odd to modern readers because she was writing in the late 1980s, when the term meant something a bit different from today – the Norwegian bands who reshaped the genre hadn’t gained widespread notice yet (I think Mayhem had put out the Deathcrush EP and that’s about it), and the term was largely applied to bands like Venom, Mercyful Fate, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, and Bathory, who don’t really sound like each other.
It’s a shame that Pulling dropped out of the conspiracy theory scene before the Varg Vikernes case and other black metal atrocities became infamous worldwide – she’d have had a field day with the fact that Varg was a hardcore MERP player in his youth. (Indeed, with his self-published RPG MYFAROG he’s trying to worm his way into the RPG community – fortunately, even highly reactionary sections of it seem to want nothing to do with him.) Instead, all Pulling can do is throw her weight behind the farcical “backmasked messages” theory behind the then-ongoing lawsuit against Judas Priest (who she clearly thinks are guilty as sin) and reveal the shallowness of her musical knowledge when she tries to claim that Pink Floyd’s The Wall counts as heavy metal. (Maybe she felt attacked by the Mary Whitehouse-inspired verse of Pigs (Three Different Ones) from Animals…)
Pulling also buys into the most absurd and implausible versions of the Satanic ritual abuse theory, a subject which muddied the waters in discussions about child safeguarding for years afterwards. (How absurd? She lends credence to Michelle Remembers, a book so ridiculous that even Pulling herself didn’t believe it when she first read it and only appears to have given it credibility after being immersed in the evangelical-aligned conspiracy theory community for long enough.)
The thing which really upsets me about the whole SRA thing is that it hits on some real issues – Pulling makes some very reasonable points here about the difficulties both children and vulnerable adults face in raising accusations of abuse. The problem with it is that it’s fake, at points truly absurdly fake, and the existence of the story gives ammo to people who want to knee-jerk dismiss reports of abusive behaviour as falsehoods and lies, despite massive differences in the circumstances. Most women reporting their #MeToo experiences, for instance, are not doing so prompted by a hypnotherapist trying their hand at the highly dubious “recovered memory therapy” (which tends to create SRA victims when the therapist believes in Satanic abuse, and UFO abductees when the therapist believes in alien abductions), nor are they children attempting to please adults by saying what the adults want them to say.
Whilst “believe people who say they are victims” is in general a good policy, a little extra caution is unfortunately needed when you get to the conspiracy theory fringe – not because people reporting their trauma in those circles are any less deserving of basic empathy, but because there’s all sorts of people in those circles who are only too keen to shape someone’s story and encourage them to express a bizarre version of it for the sake of supporting their pet theory. “Believe the victim” doesn’t mean you have to believe Cathy O’Brien, co-author of Trance Formation of America, or Arizona Wilder whose story was eagerly promoted by David Icke, when they claim that they witnessed the Presidents and monarchs who ritually abused them turning into lizard people partway through the act.
Similarly, not too long ago in the wake of the Jimmy Savile-related investigations there was the debacle of Operation Midland in which the Met Police fell down the rabbit hole of “Nick”, who alleged that as a child he’d been abused by powerful political figures and witnessed sexual murders committed by them. “Nick”, however, was telling a story that didn’t add up. The Needle – a website which is generally very concerned with matters of child sexual abuse and generally isn’t out to debunk genuine cases – closely followed the case and has done some excellent reporting on the matter, much of which has been bourne out by the facts that emerged over time.
It is now clear that “Nick”’s allegations evolved over time to increasingly incorporate allegations against public figures that had Internet conspiracy theories swirling around them following the Savile controversy. That by itself would not necessarily mean he was falsifying his story (and in general, our cultural ideas about what a false rape accusation tends to look like and how common they are are pretty shoddy) – but it is a red flag when one notes that “Nick” had been latched onto and strongly encouraged in presenting his information by Exaro, a crusading investigative journalism outlet who would have had a much juicier story on their hands if “Nick” could just be cajoled to accuse someone really important. (Exaro’s meddling in the case extended to the point where an Exaro journalist sat in with “Nick” when he formally took his claims to the police.)
It’s doubly alarming when “David” – one of the few witnesses who’d offered any form of corroborating evidence for “Nick”’s allegations – complained that he had been cajoled into doing so by campaigners; if it happened to “David”, it isn’t inappropriate to ask whether it also happened to “Nick”.
I’m entirely willing to believe that something happened to “Nick”, Arizona Wilder, and Cathy O’Brien in their pasts – but the specific stories they tell are simply not credible, particularly when those stories seem to have been shaped to promote the agenda of people around them. I find this sort of exploitation absolutely shameful, particularly since there is every possibility in such cases that a real abuser has gotten away with it because the victim has been encouraged by someone they’d put their trust in to direct their accusations at a murder-happy prime minister or a reptilian Queen rather than the actual perpetrator.
Perhaps the most alarming thing about the book is what it inadvertently reveals – namely, that Pulling was a trusted resource for several police forces where officers or detectives bought into her theories. (She recounts being taken on a visit to the kill site in the infamous Matamoros ritual sacrifice case along with Texas police officers friendly to her.) The fact that the police were relying on someone with threadbare credentials, no real qualifications or substantive training, and a clearly biased and deeply flawed research methodology is incredibly alarming.
One of the appendices gives Pulling’s guidelines for investigating scenes of occult crimes, and among the advice she gives is a highly emphasised warning that if you see a ritual circle, don’t enter it until the perimeter of the scene is secured, along with all vantage points of observation. At the very least, this implies that she genuinely believed that occultist would set up ritual circles and then attack investigators who entered them (Satanic snipers hiding at one of those vantage points, perhaps). But in context it almost feels like she’s buying into the idea that the circle has magical power.
This is yet another reminder of the greatest irony of Pulling’s campaign: the fact a central plank of her argument is that tabletop RPGs erode players’ ability to distinguish fantasy from reality, when her own capacity to tell the difference between bullshit and fact and her tendency towards magical thinking suggests a poor grasp on where the line is on her own part. Assuming everyone else shares the same vulnerabilities as you tends not to be a very useful position; if you are biologically predisposed to be an alcoholic (as evidence suggests some people are), then by all means you should be extremely cautious of alcohol, but it’s presumptuous to try to enforce the same rule on everyone.
The grand contradiction of The Devil’s Web is that it’s a mirage of a Satanic conspiracy that did not exist – in other words, a product of fantasy – whilst at the same time Pulling was vocally opposed to fantasy and did not trust it one bit. In the introduction to the chapter on RPGs, Pulling states her position that fantasy and imaginative play is largely the purview of children and well-adjusted adults should have no interest in them. Pulling sees no rightful place in people’s lives for escapism, and attacks anything which reminds of it. I can think of no better response to that than the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, devout Catholic:
I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which “Escape” is now so often used: a tone for which the uses of the word outside literary criticism give no warrant at all. In what the misusers are fond of calling Real Life, Escape is evidently as a rule very practical, and may even be heroic. In real life it is difficult to blame it, unless it fails; in criticism it would seem to be the worse the better it succeeds. Evidently we are faced by a misuse of words, and also by a confusion of thought. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter.
The Rumour Dies
In 1990 Mike Stackpole published the aforementioned Pulling Report. As well as providing strong counters to more or less all of her arguments directed at gaming (and some of her allegations in other fields), it offered a savage takedown of her personal credentials. The damage to her reputation was severe and must have made it much more difficult for Pulling to get a hearing from her authorities. However, at the time there were plenty of other conspiracy theorists – particularly those of an evangelical flavour – who’d have been happy to drink her Kool-Aid. Had she wanted to keep BADD running, I’m sure Pulling would have found plenty of people to help out – though with only fringe evangelicals still buying into her theories, her religious differences with them may have become more of a problem at this point.
As it stood, Pulling is reported to have left BADD in 1990 after the report came out. Whether she genuinely stepped away or merely claimed to stand down for the sake of preserving the group’s reputation but still steered it from behind the scenes is an open question; to be honest, I question whether there was even a BADD organisation expansive enough to continue operations after Pulling supposedly quit. They seem to have gone silent at around that time; despite the fact that the rise of games like Vampire: the Masquerade and associated controversies in the early 1990s providing stories which BADD would have surely tried to pass comment on, had they the capacity to do so, I can find no evidence of any activity on BADD’s own part (as opposed to evangelicals influenced by them) post-1990. Nor can I find any evidence of Pulling making any further input on the debate.
I would like to believe that Pulling’s withdrawal from the scene was a result of her simply moving on in the grieving process. It’s completely understandable that she’d look for something – anything – to make sense of Bink’s death in its immediate aftermath. It’s equally understandable that she could keep her crusade going for years on the back of that grief. But it’s also entirely plausible that with the passage of time the urgency of the crusade faded. Maybe she decided she’d gone off the deep end a little, or maybe she went to her grave eagerly believing all of the nonsense she’d been promoting (she died in 1997 of cancer), but either way I can well believe she simply decided that spending so much of her time and energy grieving for her dead son was not how she wanted to spend the rest of her life.
With Pulling gone, a loud voice focusing specifically on Dungeons & Dragons as a moral menace disappeared. Sure, various evangelical groups still cited the conspiracy theories from time to time, but with the rise of more violent and adult-oriented videogames and music in the 1990s giving them something more immediate to denounce, they largely moved on. Furthermore, without anyone driving the conspiracy theory to greater and greater heights, the rumour stagnated. (For instance, the pamphlet The Truth About Dungeons & Dragons by Joan Hake Robie, published in 1991, doesn’t really have anything to offer which BADD hadn’t been banging on about for years, save for a whole lot of Biblical verse citations hyping up how D&D promoted practices forbidden in the Bible.)
So the rumour is dead and we’ve all moved on… except we’ve not. There’s an ironic little coda to this story: after making gamers, of all people, the target of a witch hunt in prior decades, the legacy of the Satanic Panic has become a weapon in a witch hunt engaged in by gamers (and by alt-right trolls deciding to side with the gamers for recruitment purposes) – namely, Gamergate.
The thing you have to remember about Gamergate is that it’s a bit like an onion. In its innermost layers are politically motivated neo-fascists and misogynistic trolls who either specifically want to drive women (particularly politically outspoken women whose politics they don’t like) out of the games industry or just want to be needlessly cruel to people online – the sort of folks who, at the height of Gamergate, sat in chatrooms and imageboards planning trolling campaigns and passing dox around. Then you have various outer layers – ranging from folks who’ve been whipped up into an angry enough frenzy to fire off death threats and obscene Tweets at the usual Gamergate targets on a regular basis to the more sober sorts who exist only at the periphery of the movement and who cite its more reasonable-sounding talking points and refuse to admit that there’s a rotten, disingenuous core to it.
Gamergate relies on its more reasonable-sounding exponents to draw people in and to provide a facade of respectability for it. As such, despite its origins as a vehicle for being misogynistic and horrible about a game developer’s relationship breakup, it needs to at least make a plausible pretence of having a reasonable argument to make and a plausible philosophy. An intrinsic pillar of the Gamergate facade is the idea that feminist critics of videogames have a censorious agenda, and if they are allowed to gain a foothold in the industry the games that hardcore gamers love will be taken away from them.
This is a concept which works exceptionally well in gamer circles because many gamers remember a time when their favoured games – whether electronic or tabletop-based – genuinely did come under fire from a censorious conservative establishment. The scars of the Satanic Panic are very, very evident in the discourse around games, and part of that is evidenced in the way gamers often conflate criticism of games with attempts to suppress them. There’s a particularly notorious troll, who I won’t name here so I don’t have to bother banning him from the site should this show up in his self-Googling, who likes to brand anyone who questions the content of any RPG product whatsoever as being a “Tipper Gore”, consistently refusing to admit that people might complain about or disapprove of the content of an artistic product for any reason other than the sort of utterly simplistic knee-jerk censoriousness that Gore or Pat Pulling exhibited.
The thing is, the criticisms levied by Anita Sarkeesian and others are based on an entirely different logic from those raised by Pat Pulling and her forerunners and imitators, and the actions advocated are different. Sarkeesian, for instance, would like to see more diversity in game plots and so forth, so that the tropes of videogame genres were not so identifiably sexist. That doesn’t mean she never wants to see a game where a man has to save a woman ever again – what she wants is to see men, women, and people who don’t fit that binary saving a similarly diverse range of dependents, so that the “Save the Princess” trope which is intrinsically sexist becomes a “Save the Captive” trope which isn’t. That’s why her series is called Tropes vs. Women and why cherrypicking individual examples of games which buck the trend doesn’t constitute a counterargument to her points – she’s addressing general trends, the existence of counterexamples that buck those trends doesn’t mean that those trends don’t exist any more than the existence of Elizabeth I proves that gender equality was established in 16th Century Europe.
Patricia Pulling and BADD were bad news, they caused great harm with their panic-mongering and they aided and abetted others in doing greater and more widespread harm in addition to that. But citing Pat Pulling or Tipper Gore whenever someone criticises a game product or the culture around games is a logical fallacy in its own right. The torrent of abuse that Gamergate still occasionally vomits forth would be inappropriate even were it targeted at the likes of Pulling or Gore; in fact, it is almost never directed at anyone with such directly illiberal and conservative views. Nobody is trying to take away your games these days – but Gamergate thrives on fooling people into thinking that that’s exactly what is happening.