“While the decision appears to be a financial one, it highlights the corner tech companies have backed themselves into with PC culture.”
In the whirlwind that is the modern news cycle, it’s easy to forget who has been banned off of what platform in any given moment. Alternative media creators ranging from conservative to classical liberal are getting the axe day after day, with big names like Laura Loomer and Gavin McInnes being just the latest to get deplatformed (digitally castrated). The whole process is made even more confusing when you take motivation into consideration, which is becoming all the more important as it becomes ever clearer that big tech companies are conspiring to put ideology ahead of integrity. Companies like Twitter and Facebook opt to judge users with hypocritical standards and bias, instead of with fair and transparent methods. While there have been several of these incidents in the past month, let alone year, the most pressing happens to be with Patreon, the popular crowdfunding platform who recently banned commentator Carl Benjamin, known online as Sargon of Akkad, which has opened up a whole can of worms worth exploring.
Context is Key
Patreon has had a rather sloppy history with its public perception from the start, as upon launching, it quickly garnered a reputation for being a sort of pay wall for Tumblr artists and feminist bloggers, with content on the platform ranging from furry art to hour long podcasts explaining why all video games are inherently sexist. While later adopters to the platform might have missed out on catching that stigma, the irony was never lost on the internet conscious that the platform ended up becoming the home to many alternative media sources looking to create an independent base for themselves, ranging from Dave Rubin’s popular interview show the Rubin Report, to games commentator Colin Moriarity’s Colin’s Last Stand, to psychologist Jordan Peterson’s personal channel he created after videos of him debating left-wing culture blew up online.
Essentially, a San Francisco based platform created by leftists that originally existed to fund left-leaning content very quickly became a haven for alternative media types, and for anyone with sense, it was only a matter of time before this reality led to conflict. The first major realization that Patreon wasn’t the green pasture folks thought it was came when journalist-turned-documentarian Lauren Southern was banned off the platform, which obviously led to uproar. Southern had been banned for supporting the Defend Europe movement, who was combating economic migrants attempting to enter Europe. Patreon banned Southern noting that the money that was being donated to her was essentially funding her escapades in Europe, which Patreon claimed violated their policies. This explanation didn’t satisfy many, so CEO Jack Conte came onto the Rubin Report and attempted to clarify Patreon’s values and actions, which is worth scrubbing through as it will become very important later on. In the interview, Conte brings up the notion of Manifest Observable Behavior (hilariously making the acronym “MOB”,) which boils down to Patreon monitors spying on creators, and determining whether or not their behavior on and off the platform breaks their content policy. What is in theory an objective standard in which to judge all users fairly instead becomes an Orwellian system that targets alternative media and limits speech.
Free Speech, Hate Speech, Kermit Speech
Manifest Observable Behavior becomes important again in the recent case of Sargon of Akkad, as he was recently removed for comments he made not on his own channel, but guesting on a podcast. Sargon is known for being a troll online, and in being intentionally inflammatory, used a couple of slurs in reference to the alt-right and white supremacists. This is big for two obvious reasons:
- Sargon is a prominent classical liberal, identifying as a radical centrist and was attacking the alt-right, showcasing that political alignment does nothing to shield you from Patreon’s ban-hammer
- Manifest Observable Behavior is pervasive, digging into all forms of content, searching for any and all slip-ups. As highlighted later, Patreon is willing to double and triple down on this as a justification, no matter how bad it hurts the brand.
Patreon’s excuse and justification for this banning is highlighted here, but it only raises more genuine concerns. Is there no room for trolling on Patreon’s platform? Who is really calling the shots? As pointed out in this Tweet, why are figures with long financial histories determining company policy regarding this matter, instead of someone more attuned to creator behavior? Suddenly the haven for alternative media is suffering from the same issues that we saw with Twitter just weeks ago, although this time, the response has been huge.
Users on Patreon, both large and small have been deleting their accounts in protest to these obtuse and unfair practices, with atheist author Sam Harris notably deleting his account just recently, despite being the 11th biggest user on the site. (We deleted the Bermansplaining Patreon account in an act of heavily symbolic solidarity.)
Possibly the biggest story that is still developing on the matter was an announcement from Dave Rubin and Jordan Peterson, who released a Skype discussion on YouTube and Twitter, highlighting the obvious issues that lie with Patreon’s decision, and teasing the fact that they have indeed been developing an alternative in preparation for a situation like this. The whole ordeal is very cloak and dagger, which is to be expected from people who self identify as being part of an “International Dark Web,” but the fact remains that this video has garnered a quick and positive response, although is does highlight some further details worth discussing.
Money is Power; Power is Power
Before anyone gets excited about a possible IDW Patreon alternative, it’s worth reading this thread from Colin Moriarty who notably is friends with Dave Rubin, and is an early and influential adopter to Patreon.
In it, he smartly notes the underlying issue with the whole Patreon ordeal. The problem lies not just with identity politics or picking favorites, but rather that a middleman site like Patreon that operates as a liaison between creators and pay platforms like banks, Paypal and Stripe, is entirely beholden to appeasing those services. Without the support of Stripe, Patreon would no longer be able to operate, and this pressure is obviously what is driving their behavior towards both Sargon and Southern, and all other creators. Worth noting is that presumably, a Patreon competitor developed by the IDW would face the same roadblock, which they haven’t publicly addressed (when asked by Moriarity about this issue, Rubin cautions that he wants to discuss privately.) It also explains the hypocritical difference between CEO Conte’s spirited vlogs, that repeat how he values free speech and as an artist wants to support all sorts of expression, and the very different and rather Orwellian monitors that strike down channels and ban accounts for behavior taking place off the platform.
While the decision appears to be a financial one, it highlights the corner tech companies have backed themselves into with PC culture. It also showcases how SJW obsessed culture leads to censorship in all regards, as this situation can easily be compared to the pressure that cable network shows like Fox News and Roseanne face. Constant boycotts from major advertising companies on shows like Hannity and Tucker Carlson just highlight how the people in charge of decision making are willing to put censoring ideology before freedom of expression, and are willing to put jobs and millions of dollars on the line.
Lessons Learned From Roads Hard Traveled
While it’s rather rough that people’s livelihoods are being put on the line in order to appease corporate and leftist censorship, as always, there is indeed a silver lining in this whole regard. People have been tearing their hair out this past year trying to figure out how to handle the alleged monopoly that platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google hold over the internet. Even staunch libertarians have been driven to question government regulation in order to combat this issue, and in the protectionist era of Trump, this almost seems like the obvious solution.
However, the Patreon situation highlights the power the consumer still has, and the flaws in this system. It really isn’t that all of the internet is enslaved to YouTube, it just genuinely provides the best service, and hasn’t committed an atrocious enough act, with a reliable enough alternative to exist for an exodus and mass migration to occur. Patreon meanwhile, is experiencing this very scenario before our eyes. Despite being a tech giant with millions of users who just a year ago couldn’t imagine an alternative, now has major figures taking heroic stands by deleting their accounts and large amounts of audiences pulling their support off the platform to hold true to their values, all of which is garnering massive amounts of media attention.
This shows there is indeed a limit, and even the promise of a better platform can inspire thousands to turn on a platform they once were dependent on. This is the beauty of the market at work, and scenarios like this are what we should look up to in combating Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the ilk. In a way, feel bad for Patreon, as it has fallen victim to the back and forth trap of identity politics that so many fall into today. While you’re at it, be sure to support content creators in the transition, being sure to not get lost in this ever-disconnected world. Be sure to remember that at the end of the day, corporations, government, and banks all rely on sapping the wealth of the individual to survive, and while your individual actions may seem small, they all add up to create moments of history like this.
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