Star Trek gave television audiences their first interracial kiss in 1968, and Gene Roddenberry's vision of mankind's future continued to champion progressive ideas for many decades. Today "geek culture" is more diverse than ever, reflecting audiences' hunger for a better world where the Ghostbusters can be women, and even Ms Marvel can be Muslim.
Perhaps inevitably, that growing diversity has met with a backlash. Recently, there was much debate surrounding the cult horror author HP Lovecraft becoming the "face" of the World Fantasy Award due to his well documented racism. His passionate fans - most of who have never experienced racism - asked why such historical oppression even mattered anymore?
These debates between genuine fans of geek culture have in recent years attracted the attentions of the Alt-right. The movement is a nebulous online community whose values are almost indistinguishable from the far-right racism and sexism of Europe's National Front or America’s Klu Klux Klan. They openly call for ethnic purity, believe in the inferiority of women, and treat all alternative sexualities as aberrant and illegal. The Alt-right hates "Libtards", but it hates "Cuckservatives" more, a play on "cuckold", for what the Alt-right see as their infidelity to true conservative values.
The Hugo awards for science fiction have been a high profile target. When conservative fans organised a misguided campaign to "counter" the award's perceived liberal bias, they were in turn overwhelmed by a cadre of Alt-right activists, little interested in the awards themselves, but keen to use them as a publicity springboard for their movement.
The strategy of piggy-backing existing arguments within geek culture reached its apogee in Gamergate. What began as a critical attack on particular individuals and on a supposed lack of integrity in video games journalism, was adroitly exploited by Alt-right activists using misinformation to incite a huge explosion of hatred online against women and minorities in gaming. The Alt-right will say or do anything to outrage the liberal internet, knowing that outrage helps build their growing army of overwhelming white, mostly male, and very geeky, supporters.
If this sounds familiar, it's exactly the strategy Donald Trump used through the presidential primaries to win the GOP nomination. Why buy expensive TV ads, when a single outrageous statement about building a wall to keep out Mexican's can light up the media for free. The uncomfortable truth, that should worry anyone praying for a Trump defeat, is that the Alt-right following he has tapped into are more numerous and unpredictable than traditional political commentators understand. Hilary Clinton is right to out Trump's relationship to the Alt-right, and to be wary of its potential influence over the upcoming election.
But the experience of geek culture against the Alt-right is ultimately a hopeful one. The noise and fury of Alt-right activists helped drive a minority of alienated young male geeks to them. But far more fans of geek culture, disgusted by the racist bigotry of the Alt-right, have stood against them. The Hugo awards have proved a humiliating defeat for Alt-right activists, while Gamergate has done far more to empower feminist critics of gaming than to silence them. The toxic tactics of the Alt-right are counterproductive, but they must still be resisted with all strength or they may yet score a painful and damaging victory.
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