It’s been 10 days since the attack on YouTuber Jeremy Hambly at a bar during his trip to the Gen Gon gaming convention in Indiana and his attacker, identified as Matt Loter, is still at large and several of the names that have become associated with this story have not made any statements regarding the attack, in spite of inquiries from the public.
Based on Twitter posts from his “Matt Fantastic @ Prettiest_Matt” account, Loter’s motivation for the attack is said to be Hambly’s criticism of one of Gen Con’s guest speakers, Anita Sarkeesian.
On May 31, Twitter user, CheshirePlays, appears to have posted a tweet calling Hambly a “blight on the MTG and comic community.” He included a “heads up” to Loter and a screen capture of Hambly criticizing Sarkeesian’s Gen Con invitation on his Twitter accounts, UnsleevedMedia and The Quartering.
On June 5, Loter posted, “if you have a problem with @femfreq (Sarkessian) being invited to @Gen_Con f***ing fight me. I’m easy to find.”
But Loter didn’t need to be found. He found Hambly outside the Tin Roof Bar on August 2 and punched him from behind repeatedly. Hambly and multiple witness stated that Loter was yelling “I’m going to kill you” during the attack.
Loter, co-owner of Elm City Games in New Haven, CT, was at Gen Con to promote a game that was being sold at the Breaking Games booth. Since the attack, his accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn have been deactivated and the Facebook page for Elm City Games has been removed. Yelp has indicated that Elm City Games’ page “is being monitored by Yelp’s Support team for content related to media reports” after the business received a slew of negative reviews following Loter’s naming as the attacker.
In spite of users commenting and raising questions about the incident on social media accounts related to Loter, Sarkeesian, Gen Con, Breaking Games, and Elm City Games, not one of them appears to have issued a public statement of any kind about the attack. Hambly has said in a YouTube video that Gen Con eventually did reach out to him privately.
Interestingly enough, the Tin Roof Brewing Co. in Baton Rouge, LA, has issued a statement about the incident when they were incorrectly tagged by a Twitter user as the location of the attack. The Tin Roof Brewing Co. immediately responded on Twitter to clarify that they were in no way associated with the Tin Roof bar in Indianapolis, where the attack occurred.
Their immediate response makes perfect sense and is a smart business practice, as no personality or business entity would want their name to be associated with the negative press surrounding an incident like this without addressing it quickly and clearly…unless, apparently, that personality or business entity happens to be Loter, Sarkeesian, Gen Con, Breaking Games, or Elm City Games, most of whom responded to users raising the issue by deleting posts, blocking users, shutting down social media accounts, or ignoring comments altogether.
To be clear, none of them are obligated to make a public statement about the attack and none of them, aside from Loter, are in any way responsible for it. They have as much a right to remain silent as they do to their freedom of speech. But being silent on the matter does NOT avoid sending a message. When your name is your brand and an incident like this pulls you into a heated controversy, particularly one involving violence, why would anyone choose to stay silent, especially when people, including your own customers and fan base, are questioning where you stand on the issue?
After a man, who attempted to enter Phoenix Comic Con with multiple real weapons, was captured by police, not only did the owner of Phoenix Comic Con release a statement banning all costume props from the event, but several other comic conventions across the country did the same thing, even though they weren’t involved. Power Rangers actor, Jason David Frank, who was a supposed target of the Phoenix Comic Con gunman, also held a press conference, where he read a statement and answered questions for the media, even though he stated that he didn’t know the gunman and never came into contact with him.
However, fans in the gaming community and others who were clearly disturbed by this attack got nothing from Loter, Sarkeesian, Gen Con, Breaking Games, or Elm City Games. No denials. No defenses. No excuses. No condemnations. No repudiations. No concern. No well-wishes for Hambly. No attempts to distance themselves from Loter. No assurances that Loter would be banned from future events for an egregious violation of Gen Con’s code of conduct. No public indication whatsoever that any of them took this attack seriously or even remotely cared that it happened at all. It’s not surprising that Loter would want to disappear in silence, but how much would it have cost any one of the others to post an acknowledgement and condemnation of the attack? If not for Hambly’s sake, then at least for the sake of the people who were angry about his assault and came to each one of them to express concern about it, only to be ignored. That’s a terrible public relations precedent to set in matters that have the potential to spiral out of control.
Following the con, Breaking Games took the time to offer a Facebook post about the success of Loter’s game at their Gen Con booth and Sarkeesian posted about how much fun she had during a panel at Gen Con, which is likely to happen at a con when nobody is punching the back of your head. In comments made on both posts, users brought up the attack, but received no replies from Breaking Games or Sarkeesian.
In contrast, several YouTubers and websites that also had nothing to do with the attack immediately condemned the violence, expressed outrage, and even called for fans to NOT engage in retaliation against anyone, including Loter. Comic book artist and YouTuber, Ethan Van Sciver, went so far as to start a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for any legal expenses Hambly incurs in the process of bringing Loter to justice.
On the same day of the attack, Mythicist Milwaukee, the organizers of MythCon, posted the following on Twitter:
Safety is # 1 priority. We take pride in hosting #mythcon as a safe, fun, peaceful and respectful event. Disruptive individuals will be escorted out and handed over to MKE Police. Violence is never the answer. We are saddened by the news of the @TheQuartering and hope he is okay.
This is similar to the predicaments faced by religious leaders after terrorist incidents hit the news and the public learns that a religious person may have been involved. Almost without fail, you will hear a chorus of people asking why Islamic, Christian, or Jewish leaders aren’t condemning those actions if they truly don’t agree with them. In their defense, religious leaders HAVE often very vocally denounced violent incidents regardless of whether or not they personally knew the people involved. Their voices just rarely get the same amount of coverage as the incidents themselves. But, like it or not, when the public hears no condemnations after a person or group is linked to a violent incident, they will sometimes conclude that nobody is saying anything because, on some level, they condone what happened. Otherwise, how could they not say anything in the face of such abhorrent behavior linked to their name?
In a 2015 article by The Guardian, Sarkeesian was interviewed about the harassment and threats she says she received during “GamerGate” as a result of her YouTube series on misogyny in video games. Sarkeesian stated that living in fear because of those threats is now her “new normal” and she was quoted as saying, “GamerGate was a silver platter for them to say they don’t condone the harassment of women and they didn’t do it. GamerGate is the monster that the industry created.”
If GamerGate was the monster the video game industry created as a result of their silence regarding her harassment and threats, one has to wonder about the monster now being birthed by the silence of those who could see a person in their community get physically assaulted and say absolutely nothing.
Imagine having someone plow his fist into the back of your head multiple times. Imagine feeling afraid and distrustful of the entire world and not wanting to go to sleep for fear that you might have an injury that prevents you from waking up the next morning. Imagine what it feels like to survive having a stranger lay his hands on you in brutal, ugly violence. Imagine being the victim. Then imagine the deafening silence you hear afterwards as certain people try to ignore what happened completely. Imagine what it feels like to think that perhaps those people might believe that your life isn’t worth a simple tweet.
It’s going to be too late to care if someone is severely injured or killed the next time something like this happens. So, when incidents like this do happen, a clear and universal message needs to be sent that this behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by anyone. Silence says exactly the opposite…whether we want it to or not.