The feminist pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian has been forced to cancel a talk at Utah State University, after a threat of a “Montreal Massacre-style attack”.
Sarkeesian, who is best known for her YouTube series “Tropes v Women in Video Games”, assessing various anti-feminist trends in gaming, was scheduled to talk at the university on Wednesday, when the unsigned email was sent.
The author of the email threatened that if the talk was not cancelled, they would carry out an attack in the style of the 1989 Montreal massacre, when Marc Lépine murdered 14 women, claiming he was “fighting feminism”.
“I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs,” the letter said. “This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history and I’m giving you a chance to stop it.”
“You have 24 hours to cancel Sarkeesian’s talk … Anita Sarkeesian is everything wrong with the feminist woman, and she is going to die screaming like the craven little whore that she is if you let her come to USU. I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.”
Initially, Sarkeesian stated her intention to hold the talk despite the threat, but was forced to back down after discovering that it was impossible to prevent guns being taken to the event.
“Forced to cancel my talk at USU after receiving death threats because police wouldn’t take steps to prevent concealed firearms at the event,” she tweeted. “Requested pat downs or metal detectors after mass shooting threat but because of Utah’s open carry laws police wouldn’t do firearm searches.”
The school confirmed Sarkeesian’s explanation in a statement. “During the discussion, Sarkeesian asked if weapons will be permitted at the speaking venue. Sarkeesian was informed that, in accordance with the State of Utah law regarding the carrying of firearms, if a person has a valid concealed firearm permit and is carrying a weapon, they are permitted to have it at the venue.”
Sarkeesian was the subject of a hate campaign before she began the Tropes v Women in Video Games series. A fundraiser on Kickstarter two years ago led to vandalism of her Wikipedia page, a DDoS attack on her website, and the creation of a game called “Beat Up Anita Sarkessian”.
As well as persistent low-level harassment for the past two years, the attacks stepped up a notch in August 2014 when Sarkeesian was identified as one of the key targets of “#gamergate”. Ostensibly a campaign against corruption in journalism but in practice a grassroots attack on feminist critics in gaming, Gamergate has led to at least three prominent women in gaming having to take action over threats of violence.
Zoe Quinn, an indie developer and one of the women targeted, has said that “discussing ethics and fairness is antithetical to a campaign originated in and motivated by a fair bit of misogyny and harassment”.
The state of Utah will issue a concealed carry permit to any applicant who is at least 21 years old, mentally competent, and hasn’t been convicted of a felony or crimes involving violence, alcohol, narcotics or “moral turpitude.” The permit costs $46 and lasts for five years.
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