This past weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking with political journalist Brandon Morse of Rare.us. Along with writing about the political world for a number of outlets, Brandon is the founder of Misfit Politics, and was named among Red Alert Politics’ 30-under-30 for 2013. As a self-proclaimed gamer and someone very familiar with the landscape of political journalism, we at APGNation felt he would be a prime candidate to discuss the current state of gaming journalism and how it compares with the world of politics and political reporting.
While the two worlds may seem far removed from each other, there are many parallels that one can draw; especially in regards to the need for full disclosure on the part of the journalist as well as the need for self-regulation when it comes to conflicts of interest.
Check out our interview with Mr. Morse below:
APGNation: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Let’s begin by telling our readers about yourself and your career for those who may not be familiar. Where did you get your start? What are you currently working on?
Brandon Morse: I started getting into politics while I worked as a security
guard in Galveston. Sitting in a little shack by the sea and opening gates for people doesn’t really make for much stimulation, but I had an Internet connection. The two things I did was play World of Warcraft, and feed a weird fascination I had with communist governments. The more I learned about the communism, the more I began to learn about its strategies and tactics. History will tell you a lot about the future, and I began to see history repeating itself in various ways. One day I got on Twitter and began talking about it, and before I knew it I was writing for websites.
APGNation: What games have you been playing lately? Are there any games you are most looking forward to playing in the next few months?
BM: I’ve been playing a lot of Destiny and Shadow of Mordor on my Xbox One, but lately I’ve been having fun with games like Starbound, FTL, and Game Dev Tycoon. I’ve been playing more and more games on Steam, but as a Macbook user I feel like the kid on the playscape while everyone else is at Disneyland. Console-wise, I can’t wait for Alien: Isolation and Evolve, and I really can’t wait to see The Forest get more fleshed out.
APGNation: Do you follow competitive gaming? What are your thoughts on eSports and the current landscape of the eSporting world?
BM: I’m afraid I don’t know much about competitive gaming, save that I do like to watch competitive StarCraft 2 sometimes. I’m really bad at StarCraft multiplayer, so I think I live vicariously through the players. Watching clips, however, I really love the fandom that’s jumped up behind it. Watching two people compete playing Super Smash Bros in front of a screaming crowd warms my heart as a gamer.
APGNation: What inspired you to start Misfit Politics? What goals did you have in mind when you first started the publication?
BM: Andrew Breitbart once said, “If you can’t sell freedom and liberty, you suck.” Well, the right sucked at selling freedom and liberty. The left used celebrities, and the attention grabbing methods to get their narrative across, and the most we had were guys in ill fitting suits with bad haircuts droning on behind a podium. I wanted to change it up. We made funny videos, animated series, podcasts, and easy to read articles. It was fun, but I’ve since put Misfit into hibernation. I’ll wake it back up one day, but for now I work for rare.us and am really enjoying the way they approach politics.
APGNation: Recently on Twitter you have shown support for the #GamerGate movement. Is this movement similar to anything you have experienced in the world of political journalism? What can gaming journalists learn from the political media and the challenges they have faced?
BM: Absolutely. In fact I was noticing how a lot of the occurrences that
happened in #GamerGate had happened to the political right in an almost rapid-fire manner. From false accusations by the media, to a JournoList style of interconnected reporters and website editors to form a singular agenda driving narrative. What gamers have fought against these past months, the right has had to do ad nauseam for years. It’s why you see a lot of right wing people joining the fight, even if not being gamers themselves. Adam Baldwin and Milo Yiannopoulos (a.k.a. “Nero”) are perfect examples. They know the battle inside and out, and what the stakes of losing this battle are.
APGNation: Do you feel the responsibility lies with the journalist or the publication to identify potential conflicts of interest when covering a story? In the political world, what is the expected course of action by a publication when one of their journalist’s ethical practices comes into question?
BM: I think both the journalist and the publication have that responsibility, and I think a lot of the problems you see with journalism stems from not being upfront and honest about who is getting paid, or who has ties to whom. Having a conflict of interest and reporting on the subject isn’t reporting, it’s advertising.
Politics is rife with this problem, but it’s agenda driven and so almost all is fair. I’d say politics is 95% advertising. If you have that connection, you use that connection for ill or good. Half-truths, character assassinations, and lazy statistics are so commonplace that journalist ethics in politics might begin and end with “try not to get caught.” It’s why I always say you should look further into a story than what’s being reported. There is no such thing as an unbiased reporter.
APGNation: Intel recently pulled all of their ads from the gaming publication Gamasutra. Do you feel businesses pulling advertising was an inevitable byproduct of #GamerGate. Do you feel this will continue or was this an isolated incident? What parallels can you draw between this example and similar situations in the political realm?
BM: Whether Intel pulled their ads from Gamasutra because they agreed with #GamerGate about ethics, or they knew supporting a website that insults its customers would hurt profit, they did a smart thing; they sided with their customer. The lifeblood of any business is the customer, and Intel wasn’t about to bleed out along with Gamasutra. Either reason, they practiced good business. I can say with some confidence that other businesses are watching Intel like a hawk right now. They’re watching stocks, and listening to reactions. Simple market research. If other businesses see that Intel’s actions improved customer relations and generated loyalty, it won’t take much to get them to take to the same route.
We had very similar things happen in politics, and the one that really comes to mind is Karl Rove. Rove was George W. Bush’s senior advisor and deputy chief of staff, and a big mover and shaker in the establishment GOP. Rove didn’t like the new blood the very large and very active tea party wanted to install to replace his good ol’ boy, old guard line up, and so went out of his way to try to stop them. He paid for it dearly. Donations to his organizations dropped 98%. Once a very powerful man is now relegated to the trash heap. The lesson here is simple, don’t piss off your customers.
APGNation: The popularity of new media channels continues to grow and bring rise to a new level of interaction between publications and their audiences. How do you see this dialogue continuing to evolve in the future? What changes will need to be made for outlets to adapt to this changing landscape?
BM: During #GamerGate one of my favorite things to do was watch Internet Aristocrat obliterate the narrative that social justice obsessed websites and
thought police were trying to force on us. He researched in depth, connected dots, and released videos that were informative and entertaining as hell. What’s more, this guy did it all in his spare time. The big sites with advertisers and thousands on thousands of readers were made foolish in the face of a YouTube user who did a job they themselves claimed they did. It’s a great example of how now journalists who act up must face the wrath of their reader directly.
We live in an age where a blogger can destroy an entire narrative from his living room before he’s even finished his first cup of coffee. We’re all whistleblowers now, and there’s no escaping it for journalists. This is a good thing for everyone. It’ll encourage reporters to keep in mind that they aren’t talking AT us anymore, but talking WITH us. It’ll keep them more honest, and less egotistical.
APGNation: What actions can readers take to show support for proper journalistic practices without furthering resentment or provoking attacks between the two sides?
BM: Sadly, promoting honesty in journalism is a never-ending battle. Someone somewhere is always going to want to inject an agenda, and sculpting the flow of information to suit it is going to be a priority. If you truly want to prevent an escalation then stay on top of them. Discredit them when they lie, correct their false claims, and let them know they’re being watched. Do the research they didn’t. In other words, keep doing what you’re doing right now.
APGNation: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share with our readers? Where else can we find you and your work?
BM: I’m going to start attempting to cover more stories about video games and the goings on in the industry at Rare. Not much about video games gets discussed on sites that focus on politics, but with video games being such a huge social and cultural medium, it cannot go ignored any longer. The events within #GamerGate proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
APGNation: Are there any topics we did not discuss today you would like to speak about with our readers? Any final thoughts you’d like to leave us with?
Lord of the Rings tells a great story about how unlikely heroes saved the world from a hateful power that sought to bring everything under its dominion. Gamers have done nothing short of hobbit heroics. People have been trying to fight cultural Marxism for years, and in a few months an unforeseen opponent took it to the mat and in a clear voice said “no.” Gamers stood firm and made it clear that you won’t be controlled, belittled, or cowed. You want to be free and you won’t have it any other way. What you’ve done will echo beyond the video game industry. Just watch.
Thanks again to Brandon Morse for taking the time to speak with us on this important topic. I hope that his words help bring to light that certain issues the gaming community are facing right now have been dealt with before in every corner of journalism. We appreciate him spending this time with us, and can’t wait to see what projects he has coming up in the future.
Well Nation, what are your thoughts on what Mr. Morse had to say? Keep the conversation going in the comments below!
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Until we meet again Nation!