Melinda Smith, an adult film actress who works under the name “Mercedes Carrera,” was a prominent figure in the “Gamergate” movement online in 2015. She was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of sexually abusing a child younger than 10 years old, CBS Los Angeles reports.
Detectives from the Rancho Cucamonga police department say they were first notified of sexual acts against a girl under the age of 10 on Jan. 31. The girl was sexually abused repeatedly over four months by Smith and [Jason] Whitney, according to police.
Last Friday, a search warrant served at their home uncovered evidence corroborating the girl’s statement, a bedroom set-up where the couple could film and record various pornographic videos or web shows, methamphetamine and two loaded handguns, police said.
Gamergate was spawned by alleged concerns about “ethics in game journalism,” but quickly devolved into a cesspit of right-wing hysteria about “SJWs” (social justice warriors) that culminated in hyper-misogynistic harassment campaigns against women. Smith spent much of 2015 and early 2016 talking to media about her support for the anti-woman Gamergate propagators, decrying modern feminism and belittling women who sought to advocate for their interests in the tech industry. Her criticisms quickly earned her a favorable reputation in the Gamergate community.
For example, a 2015 blog authored by Mike Cernovich, who participated in the Gamergate movement, described Smith as “everything women who oppose #GamerGate are not,” adding that she was “thoughtful, intelligent, and fiercely independent.” In 2016, Smith was removed from a panel at South by Southwest over allegations that she harassed an activist who opposed online harassment. Smith was the subject of glowing articles from right-wing media at the time, landing flattering features at The Daily Caller and Breitbart, and appearing on programs hosted by right-wing media figures who supported Gamergate, including Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes and Infowars personality Paul Joseph Watson.
It’s hard to imagine that these media figures who backed Smith in 2015 would have had any idea that she would later be arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor. But Smith’s arrest comes as another example of the toxicity that flourished in the Gamergate movement; the fallout of that era online also served as a convenient foundation for the so-called “alt-right” to disseminate white nationalist propaganda to massive audiences of young men.