I saw this delightful little piece a few days ago and honestly had some difficulty getting through most of it. It reads like an essay: a long boring drawn out essay ladened with words and sentences intended to be insulting or patronizing. Willie Osterweil uses the majority of the piece to accuse "Nerds" of fascism, while comparing them to the rise of the alt-right and president-elect Donald Trump. He also mentions a little-known movement called GamerGate, which he claims "pretended" to be about ethics in video games journalism: saying that participants used it as a cover to harass women, along with anyone that was not a straight white male, out of the gaming community. Willie doesn't forget to take a jab at Palmer Luckey, founder of the Oculus Rift, who was attacked by multiple media outlets over his political affiliation and views: accusing him of investing part of his fortune on "meme magic".
Training For Fascism Since The End Of The Star Wars Prequels
All interesting theories and accusations are of course but why don't we start with the definition of fascism, seeing as how nerds have become fascist seems to be the core of his argument. Looking at the Meriam-Webster definition the word is described as "a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government". So in essence the writer of this essay must view Donald Trump as a "nerd" and as a fascist leader who intends to control the lives of the people, while not allowing anyone to disagree with the government. However, I don't think that's quite the definition our friend here is going with. Recently fascism has had some revision in some places that now define fascism, or more accurately the first definition google will show you for fascism, as "an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization". Authoritarian for nerds seems a little bit off, though.
Through social pressure video game critics and journalists have been keen on trying to shame both gamers and developers alike into changing their games and preference in games. Using their positions and popularity as critics, or as online personalities, to discredit game titles for being too violent or too sexualized, while trying to enact change. In other words: to exert authority through social pressure. Gamers on the other hand, or as Willie probably views them: nerds, are more likely to call a game terrible and talk about what they objectively hate about it rather then demand it's content changed for a subjective injustice they believe it causes them.
South Park Does A Wonderful Job At Portraying Us As The Fascists We Will Soon Be
Osterweil then goes onto say bullied nerds were never really a thing. Being born in the 1980's, I can speak from experience that social outcasts, ie nerds, being bullied at least was a very real thing. I can also confirm it was still very real, at least for me specifically, until the early 2000's. Hell, I still get teased by a number of people for liking Pokemon as much as I do.
Our writer friend Willie then goes on a nearly full page tangent describing fraternity life in the early 60's and 70's, which he describes as breeding grounds for toxic masculinity and rape culture. Talking about movies from the 70's and 80's in a near Sarkeesian level "critique", lamenting how horrible the various tropes were and how misleading it was to call white boys and men bullied, as well as claiming the men of that era always felt entitled to the girl in the movies. I know nothing about the fraternities from the 60's or 70's other than what I have seen in movies, seeing as I am only in my early thirties, though based on the tone of this individual I would guess he has about as much of a clue as I do.
Did Willie Osterweil Take Jokes Like The PC Master Race A Little Too Seriously?
Regarding movie tropes, this popular phrase sums it up nicely: "Everyone likes an underdog". Why do you think movie makers put a good portion of their protagonists, often the nerdy not-as-good-looking guy, in an underdog position and then end up giving them not only the girl but also the victory in the end? This formula makes audiences feel good as well as allows them to relate better to the character in question. Even in a movie (or book if you prefer) like The Hunger Games, the lead character Katniss is considered an underdog throughout a good portion of the movie and is given the victory at the end. She doesn't get the boy in this case, but she gets exactly what she wanted.
My favorite line from this overly dramatic demonization of nerds though is this;
Now, of course, these films are subjects of much high-profile nostalgia. Netflix’s retro miniseries Stranger Things, for instance, looks back wistfully to the ’80s, re-enchanting the image of nerds as winning underdogs (rather than tyrannical bigots).
The Perfect Portrayal Of Three Tyrannical Bigots
Nerds as Tyrannical bigots. I am curious in what positions of power he believes me, or really any other nerd out there, to be in as to then count as a tyrannical bigot? Is he referring to Donald Trump? Or is he talking about all people who could be put under the label of nerd? You see it's a very confusing piece, as most of his belief of nerds seeing themselves as bullied and under any kind of oppression, comes from old movies. Osterweil seems to think these old films perpetuate a false idea in the minds of straight white male nerds as being a victim and he views these movies, and in one instance Stranger Things, as the source of what puts these ideas in nerds minds.
"What Was the Nerd" really only has anything of substance to say for the first ten paragraphs or so where he lays the foundation of how he feels about nerds, the alt-right, Donald Trump and GamerGate. After that it's a long winded "critical analysis" of how old movies, early 60's college fraternities and current shows like Stranger Things are creating a fascist regime of authoritarian nerds, with a sprinkle of social woes that were happening during the time periods he goes into. Osterweil's evidence, of course, is extremely lacking and seems primarily based on a belief that movies are shaping some dangerous mindset in nerds and making it a reality.
With an ending like: "Now that the nerds have fully arrived, their revenge looks uglier than anything the jocks ever dreamed.", along with references to Revenge of the Nerds, you almost feel sorry for this Willie guy for how much he has let his paranoid delusions envelop his mind. Of course, I dare not tread too horribly on the feet of the Author who penned "In Defense of Looting" when it comes to what does or doesn't make fascism.