To understand how and why this is happening, you have to understand how chan culture works.
Chan boards, even good ones, are a perpetually frothing angry mob. Everyone is poised to attack anyone for anything they dislike.
But it's all a joke. Everyone's anonymous, so you can just join the winning side. Hell, you can play both sides if you want.
Consensus emerges in a decentralized way, and ideas mutate in an organic way. Channers are often very protective of this process.
This doesn't work very well if anonymity is compromised. If you're identifiably the creator of something, it doesn't belong to everyone.
So chan culture has an ingrained hostility against both identity and power. People will viciously attack tripfriends and mods.
Tripfriends are people who use tripcodes, simple hash identifiers, to have a sort of permanent identity.
It's usually a homophobic slur instead of -friend.
I'm not going to say chan culture is perfect, but it sort of functions in its own bubble.
Here, I want to make a clear distinction. There are anons/channers, who have accepted the norms of chan culture.
Anonymity is a core part of this identity, but merely being anonymous does not make you an anon. It's about identifying as a larger whole.
Capital-A Anonymous, as with @youranonnews and such, are anons but most anons don't think of themselves as part of Anonymous.
Chan culture is what @FilmCritHULK described as the cult thinking learned in the wild, but I think that's colored by not understanding it.
Chan culture is a decentralized echo chamber, but one that can produce interesting things through the work of many hands.
However, it can also produce hellaciously toxic communities over time, too, as the consensus drifts.
Two notable examples: 4chan's /pol/, which is openly a white supremacist board at this point, and people are recruiting from it.
And Wizardchan, which is full of depressed, lonely men turning their anger and despair in on themselves and outward on women as a whole. (Wizardchan is genuinely tragic. I firmly believe its existence is terrible for every participant, and wish I could do something to help.)
Chan culture produced both some of the early leaders of #gamergate, and the masses to give it momentum.
I've talked about the origins of gamergate previously.
I've talked about /pol/ blending with MRA and anti-fem internet sentiment to give #gamergate its early leadership.
But that only explains #gamergate's leaders.
It doesn't explain why everyone else does what they do, while exclaiming that they have no leaders.
Most #gamergate-rs are not consciously racist or misogynist, or consciously intending to harass, or consciously aggressive.
Chan culture is the source of #gamergate's tribalism, and I feel like a fool for not realizing it earlier.
Channers detest tripfriends for trying to draw attention to themselves. They are fertile ground for "professional victim" accusations.
Why would Zoe Quinn talk about her life and the harassment she's been enduring if it weren't to draw attention to herself? Chan thinking.
Channers detest moderation, seeing it as an unnatural intervention into the "natural" emergence of consensus.
Why can't we talk about Zoe Quinn's supposed misdeeds and let our own consensus emerge naturally? Chan thinking.
Chan culture considers personal reputation meaningless but collective identity sacrosanct.
Don't you DARE suggest there anything wrong with anonymity or gaming! But if some chick's reputation is ruined, oh well, who cares.
This also explains how #gamergate can be so obviously sexist and racist but also harbor everyone in #notyourshield.
As long as you sublimate yourself to the consensus constructed identity, #gamergate accepts you, no matter who you are!
But if you assert that gamer culture is hostile to women or POC or LGBT people, based on your own experience, you are out of fucking line.
Similarly, if you suggest that games need to change in some way, you are fighting the consensus and a target. No wonder they hate Sarkeesian
It's obviously massively unexamined privilege, but that unexamined privilege is part of the required sublimation to the group identity.
Vivian James is the perfect #gamergate woman. She completely submits to the gamer identity and demands others do the same.
This mentality is reflected in how #gamergate deals with its targets.
The "Literally Who" women, Quinn, Sarkeesian, Wu, and Harper, are smeared by saying they want to aggrandize themselves somehow.
This goes against the anon culture idea that credit belongs to the whole, not themselves. They're stealing attention away from gamers!
Similarly, look at how #gamergate tries to attack both @srhbutts and myself.
For both of us, they've frantically dug for some sort of indication that we're people, not anons who turned against the whole.
For me, the ugliest slur they could think of is that I was an admin of Wikipedia who edited Pokemon articles and was banned years ago.
(That's not me, but that's neither here nor there.)
So they're trying to slur me with liking video games, posting about them, but getting banned from there. Didn't they get banned from 4chan?
But it's not hypocrisy. The slur isn't that I was supposedly banned from WP; it's that I'm a human with a history, instead of just an anon.
Ironically, it's about humanizing their opponents.
Look at the replies to these tweets. I'm being accused of trying to build a reputation off of this writing, despite nobody knowing who I am.
It also explains their paradoxical obsession with and sensitivity to doxxing. It isn't hypocrisy.
Doxxing is the highest crime because it pierces anonymity.
But it's fitting for anyone who draws attention to themselves. Anyone who draws attention to themselves should not be able to escape it.
If they want attention that badly, they can have it.
It also explains #gamergate's obsession with false flagging, as noted by SGG.
On chan boards, false flagging isn't just normal, it's perfectly accepted.
Yelling "[thing] sucks and all its fans are idiots" is normal, even if you like [thing]. People even often start arguments with themselves.
(Once upon a time this was called skub fighting after a Perry Bible Fellowship comic. Dunno what it's like any more.) http://www.pbfcomics.com/20
Same for the very venerable practice of replying to a single-post thread with "DISREGARD THAT I SUCK COCKS", implying the OP said that.
When everyone's anonymous, lying about yourself is harmless and normalized. Channers come to expect it.
So why wouldn't someone do this perfectly normal thing to aggrandize themselves?
The biggest disconnect, however, causes sealioning, mobbing, and harassment of all kinds.
And it's all done perfectly coldly. Even indifferently.
Stating a contentious opinion on a chan board is an invitation to argue. Even if the opinion is obviously stated in bad faith.
If you say the Xbox One is good, it will be taken as an invitation to argue about consoles unless you specifically say so.
This acculturation has transferred directly to Twitter. Why would you post in #gamergate if you didn't want people to yell at you?
Man, if Anita Sarkeesian didn't want to be yelled at for her wrong opinions, she should stop saying them!
This is obviously silencing and pressure to conform to the "consensus" status quo.
But it's invisible to channers, and thus #gamergate. It is the water they swim in.
They feel betrayed when people are intimidated by or put off by their open hostility en masse. Wasn't this an invitation to argue?