On August 26th, 2014, Anita Sarkeesian – the Social Justice Video Game critic who runs the Feminist Frequency YouTube Channel – received a number of death threats from an anonymous twitter account. This isn’t the first time she’s received harassment online (though many people are skeptical about the volume), but these were the most violent to date. They seem to support her allegations of widespread misogyny in Video Gaming culture.
Some people were suspicious of these tweets, due to them being released at the same time as her most recent video, as well as the call for financial support which immediately followed them. Furthermore, the rapid succession with which the tweets occurred – and the fact that Anita was not logged into Twitter at the time of the screen-grab (how did she know about them 13 seconds after the final one was tweeted?) – had many people raising an eyebrow.
Then, a few days later she tweeted the following:
Bill from Kentucky looked into this – finding it a bit odd that a police officer would say something like that, in this era of overreaction and Slutwalks – and he learned that the San Francisco Police Department has no idea what she’s talking about.
I decided to phone them myself, and record the conversation with SFPD Media Relations officer Albie Esparza. The following video covers the call, and there is a transcript below.
Aurini: I’m calling about an incident which occurred in your district on August 26th to a Miss Anita Sarkeesian; she is a prominent cultural critic who received a number of death threats over Twitter, which wound up driving her out of her own home. This has been reported throughout the gaming media, as well as in other mainstream sources such as the LA Times, and The Telegraph-
Esparza: I’m very familiar with the case… the incident. There’s nothing, there’s no record of any incident occurring on the 28th of August [Ed: this would be the date that she reported it, the 26th is when she received the tweets]. I’ve been trying to reach her for the past two days. If you have a way to contact this person and ask them for a case number, we’d appreciate that. There’s no record from our dispatch centre that I called and asked. There’s no record of any report being taken. So, when I saw her tweets it says “authorities”; Anita should make sure she reports to the San Fran police how she did this because there’s no record.
Aurini: She said the officers told her she should stop doing her cultural commentary if she was receiving threats – is this the sort of thing that you would say to a victim of harassment?
Esparza: No, but that’s hearsay. That’s third party information, so I’m not going to speculate on whether or not that was said, but we wouldn’t say that to someone.
Aurini: Would that possibly be disciplinary action, if an officer were to say such a thing?
Esparza: We’re not going to talk about hypothetical situations because that would be hearsay. There’s no record of that incident occurring, so I’m not going to speculate. It’s inappropriate to make comments on that.
Aurini: I have some colleagues who have received harassment in other districts, and the police there recommended that they not respond it, or discuss it online, once the investigations has begun. Is that your department’s policy, and if not, what advice would you give to somebody who was receiving threats?
Esparza: If somebody receives a threat – and we’re talking specifically online: text messaging, twitter, email, that type of stuff – it’s important to document it. So they should somehow save – either a text message or an email or a tweet – if they can capture that and bring it to the police station as evidence, that would be booked. It’s very important that they document it, as long as can do so safely. It’s very important because, again, if they don’t do it and this continues, you never know what can happen. At least document it, if the person has any leads we will do our best, we take it seriously when somebody makes threats against someone’s life, so we would ask that they file a report, bring the evidence, so we can initiate an investigation.
Aurini: Would your department handle online harassment, or is this the sort of thing that you would pass on to the FBI or somebody else?
Esparza: Well, certainly it depends on the nature of the threat. Typically, for a threat our department would handle it. If it’s anything more significant – as far as maybe local domestic terrorism, that kind of stuff – it would move to the FBI or federal agents, but typically the city would handle it.
Aurini: If it was an online anonymous account – we don’t know who the person is, it’s a fake account – would you possibly pass that on because it’s not a local issue, such as a domestic violence issue between a local couples
Esparza: We would certainly investigate it if we feel that it’s something that is happening on a larger scale, we would share with our regional partners or even federal agents. Every case is an individual and the needs are different, but typically it’s something [garbled] it would be shared amongst our law enforcement partners.
Aurini: You said you were trying to get a hold of Ms. Sarkeesian because you’ve never heard of it? You would like the case number that she would have received if she reported it as she claims?
Esparza: Right, so I do have a report for Ms. Sarkeesian was a victim of threats as well, but this was back in March of this year. So that’s the only record I found. But there’s nothing as of yet for August.
[~20 seconds of audio redacted; Anita’s contact information was mentioned]
Esparza: The things it says on her tweets, she reports “authorities” but there are multiple police agencies in San Francisco, so I want to make sure she reported the harassment to the local police, and I did call the local precinct where she lives, they don’t have any records of an investigation with her name currently. The only thing that came up in my system was a case from March of this year.
Aurini: So you are the public representative for the entire San Francisco area? All of the districts within?
Esparza: San Francisco PD, yes.
In a certain sense, we’re running into the difficulty of trying to prove a negative. Did Ms. Sarkeesian report this to the FBI instead of the SFPD? Did the Officer who she reported to hate women, and throw her report in the garbage? Did she eat some bad burritos, and was this all just a fever dream?
It’s hard to say; but I got the sense from Esparza that he’s very upset by the accusations being directed as the SFPD, and would like some documentation to back of Sarkeesian’s claims. Personally, I’d like to see a lot MORE documentation on Sarkeesian, because this isn’t the only claim she’s made which I suspect is fraudulent – and not just her, but all of the individuals hiding behind the shield of Social Justice, and the journalists who have been aiding and abetting them, culminating in outrage known as #GamerGate. That’s why Jordan Owen and myself have started a Patreon page, so that we can create a feature-length documentary about these people and their methods, and how they bully and victimize the very people they claim to support.
So please help us get this documentary made, so that we can fight for openness and integrity within Tech and Video Game circles, and expose the professional victims for the con artists that they are. Please support our documentary, The Sarkeesian Effect: Inside the World of Social Justice Warriors.