Feminism

A More Realistic Version of the Law & Order: SVU Episode “Intimidation Game”

The long-running TV series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is known for ripping stories from the headlines (which then are said to not resemble any person in fiction or real life), and so it’s no great surprise that the most recent episode addressed Gamergate, the “movement” of mostly young men harassing women in the gaming industry with slurs and rape and death threats.

In the episode, which US viewers can watch on Hulu, Raina Punjabi (a game designer who is an amalgam of Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn) is threatened by men who hate women for seemingly encroaching on their territory (so far, so accurate). It goes downhill from there: the cops desperately want to help and protect the Raina, but she dismisses the threats and continues with her game launch despite the threats. At one point she is SWATted (meaning the men call the cops and tell them someone is at her address with hostages and a gun, so the SWAT team breaks down her door and points guns at her).

Raina still doesn’t want the cops’ help but agrees to let them come to the game launch. At the launch, the cops are unable to stop men from kidnapping her, at which point she is horribly raped and abused as the cops try to find the criminals. In the end, she admits the men have won and she quits the gaming industry.

Obviously, there were a lot of inaccuracies with this episode, so I’ve taken it upon myself to rewrite it using dialogue actually taken from the FBI and police officers I spoke to most recently about actual threats I received last month:

RAINA: Hello, I’d like to report some very concerning and specific threats that have been made against me online.

ICE T: Okay, I can’t promise that we can do anything but I can definitely take a report.

RAINA: Um, okay. Well, first of all, men have posted my address online and are saying they’re going to “SWAT” me. Do you know what SWATting is?

ICE T: Swapping? No, I . . . I have no idea what you’re talking about. Are you reporting a crime, ma’am?

RAINA: No, SWATting is where people call the cops and tell them there’s a gunman with hostages at my address, in the hopes a SWAT team will break down the door . . .

ICE T: I don’t understand. Is there a crime in progress you are trying to report? Because if so you have to call 911.

RAINA: I . . . no, I’m saying that this is a thing that people are saying they’re going to do to me, so it’s important that you know not to break down my door if you get a report like that.

ICE T: Why would someone do that, ma’am?

RAINA: What? I don’t know. They just do.

ICE T: Well I’m not sure what you want me to do about it.

RAINA: I . . . I guess just make a note of it? In case you get a report? So that you can maybe call me before sending a SWAT team over?

ICE T: I guess I’ll write a note down but I don’t know what else you want me to do.

RAINA: Okay, well also there are men specifically threatening to kill me.

ICE T: And is this online?

RAINA: Yes.

ICE T: So no one has done anything to you in person?

RAINA: Not yet, no. They’re threatening to rape and kill me.

ICE T: But just online.

RAINA: Yes, just online.

ICE T: Okay, well I’ve written up a report here. We can’t do anything until someone actually does something to you but when they do we’ll be able to consult this report.

RAINA: I have their names and the cities they live in . . .

ICE T: Do they live in New York?

RAINA: No, but one is in New Jersey and another is in Philadelphia . . .

ICE T: Ma’am, we can’t do anything about that. You’ll have to call their local PD and make a report there.

RAINA: And will they be able to do something?

ICE T: They’ll be able to make a report.

RAINA: Oh.

ICE T: Is there anything else?

RAINA: I . . . I guess not.

ICE T: Why are you still standing there?

RAINA: Well, there’s still 40 minutes left in this episode.

ICE T: Oh, don’t worry about that. We’ll just flash forward to after you’re murdered. We’ll fill the rest of the show with all of us wondering what we could have possibly done to prevent this tragedy.

RAINA: I hate you.

THE END

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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7 Comments

  1. I’m thinking maybe you should get a regular 9-5 job, then not go to it because of the threats online. Hear me out… if you demonstrate a material loss, than you could sue them. This would enable you to subpoena their ISP’s, find out who they are and hold them up to both public ridicule and legal scrutiny. The police and the FBI are not empowered to go after anonymous people on the Internet making you uncomfortable. They are a reactionary force and they typically act after demonstrable harm has been done. Civil court is the place you can go to air these grievances, and you can make it cost the bastards money. It will also likely provide you with material that could be turned into content. While some of the asshats (like Thunderfoot) are known quantities and already identified, for the most part just saying stupid stuff is the full extent of their douchebaggery. Let the anonymous d-bags discover their anonymity is a lie and the amount of harassment may well fall. Just an idea.

    1. I assume “making you uncomfortable” is legal jargon for “threatening to rape, torture and/or murder you and then do horrible pervy things to your body after you’re dead.” Cause I’m sure you’re not trying to minimize the threats by using words like “uncomfortable.” Amirite?

      P.S. I think your point is if you can prove real, financial damages (it always comes down to money), then you have a better chance of getting the authorities to do their job.

      1. Buzz, I think you are being pretty unfair to the police.

        I mean, how are they going to have the time to hunt down actual threats from anonymous online harassers when they are so busy stopping all the imaginary threats from real-life minorities that are right in front of them?

        If they waste their time hunting down some serial doxxer or rape-threatener (cause who’s he hurting?) then that’s less time to stop and frisk all the brown people and that would just make all the law-biding (white) citizens feel less safe.

        I know these functions would be from different parts of the police force, but priorities!

        C’mon, use your head man.

    2. Hi,
      I looks like you are trying to be sardonic here, would you like some help?

      First, the cold detachment is a good start but you have to stay focused. Taking pot-shots at all sides leaves your comment a mess and makes it look like you are actually for the status quo.

      Second, if you are trying to make an actual point it is not good form to start with victim blaming unless you are trying for irony in which case see the first point.

      And finally, if you are trying to troll you need to commit to the bit. Sure, you took shots at Rebecca (get a 9-5, suing would give you material, etc.) but taking half-hearted swings at the authorities, the system, and asshats as well lessens the likelihood of getting a rise out of anyone, which leads back to the first point.

      tl;dr Focus dammit!

  2. These newfangled police shows. Why don’t they do it the old way, by drinking heavily, creepily stalking you to “protect you”, getting into street and bar fights followed by rushing in to shoot your boyfriend while the actual aggressor escapes and continues to murder. And over videogames? Surely it has to dark and illegal, sexually extravagant videogames, all tied in with the developer’s disturbing secret inner carnality, hidden by a saintly outward appearance.

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