Hello, everyone. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintances.
A brief introduction is in order. While this blog is quite new, I have been a feminist on Youtube for about a year and a half. At the time I started my channel, Youtube had become extraordinarily hostile to people who had an interest in progressive politics. Many people were being bullied, dogpiled and harassed to the point of shutting their channels down. I started doing content around social justice issues because Youtube is often the first place people go nowadays for information, and it was important for feminists to hold the line. I am, well… just the right kind of bitch for that sort of job.
I also thought that I could be someone who might help bring a little humanism back to YT atheist/ skeptic community. I now wonder how I could ever have been so naïve.
Most importantly for this blog, I am one of the people who were trying to warn the Mythcon organizers as to the nature of their speakers, particularly Sargon of Akkad, a fellow I have unfortunately known for some time. When it became clear that the Mythcon people were not interested, my peers and I just tried to warn as many others in the community as possible. If they want to platform people like this, at the very least we would make sure they had to own their decision, and we were not going to let them say they weren’t warned.
Let me introduce you to the Carl Benjamin (aka Sargon) that I know.
WHERE DID THIS GUY COME FROM?
Carl came to prominence on Youtube as the most public mouthpiece of the movement called GamerGate. (If you are unfamiliar with that movement…that’s a good thing, really. It’s beyond the purview of this blog but I’ll try to include some sources about it. Incidentally, fellow conference speaker June Lapine aka Shoeonhead also came up during the GG years as a figure associated with that movement).
Carl’s first video was regarding frequent GG target Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist critic of video games who received death and rape threats regularly. Carl made over 30 videos about her specifically and a great many others that discussed her.
When I say “discussed” that is somewhat euphemistic. Carl has referred to her over the years as a con artist (implying she either instigated or perhaps even fabricated her years of well-documented abuse), a cult leader, a bitch, an authoritarian bigot against white men, and many other interesting charges. The master of the mixed message, he would tell his followers not to harass her- as that would be ‘money in her pocket’, but also that her harassment was an inevitable consequence of her bigotry. He has stated numerous times that he and other “anti-sjw’s” are in a culture war against “regressives” and “cultural Marxists”.
(I will link a video I made about this topic, though I must apologize- it’s unfortunately not as well edited as I would like.)
HOW WE KNEW THIS DEBATE WOULD GO SOUTH (CARL’S GREATEST HITS)
So let’s just skip the “I-told-you-so’s” as given, and move on to why we were speaking up. Let’s be frank- genuine debate with progressives is something Carl has attempted a few times, to his detriment. He sucks at it. Naturally, he prefers to stick to his actual strengths: propaganda and harassment.
Let’s review some highlights:
~ After mass shooter Elliot Rogers’ deadly rampage, Carl responded to feminist Laci Green’s video on the subject by – ever so rationally- blaming the event on her in particular and the “fucking feminist SYSTEM!!” in general. This was delivered in a histrionic rant that has to be heard to be properly appreciated.
~ Carl holds a grudge against my friend, atheist Youtuber Steve Shives, for his progressivism. Carl has tried some interesting (ok, fraudulent) tactics to get Steve to debate him but has been refused. So, of course, he called upon his rationality and wit to…attack Steve’s wife. He took a two-minute video she appeared in where Steve asks her if she finds his TV show preferences sexist and she admitted she did, and from that deduced that she was a vicious harpy, forcing her feminist ideas upon poor, emotionally abused Steve. This has caused her to be attacked and maligned by many online trolls for years.
~ When British Member of Parliament and known sexual assault survivor Jess Phillips went public with a campaign to curb online harassment of women, you might have thought a guy like Carl- who includes his dedication to ‘rational arguments backed by evidence’ in his channel description- would immediately start constructing clear, concise and cogent arguments detailing his concerns, the better to win in the ‘free marketplace of ideas’.
Alright, you can stop snickering now. No, of course he didn’t. This was, as you might have guessed, the occasion of his infamous tweet to her, stating, “I wouldn’t even rape you, Jess Phillips”. Then his followers, who are among the most reliable of lemmings, began to all tweet the same; so that when she woke up that morning she had literally hundreds of messages from people negatively evaluating her rapeability.
~ Carl had a debate with feminist Dr. Kristi Winters (full disclosure, another friend and associate). Kristi was savvy enough to insist upon a structured and moderated format, and she trounced him. He was so clearly bested that he had to apologize to his fans.
Now, Kristi let him know that she was open to a rematch, but unsurprisingly he did not choose that approach. Instead, a couple of months later he decided to start a dogpile against her, asking her repeatedly about the ‘feminist issue’ of ‘tight Asian p-ssy’ (this was based on an article he’d seen about the objectification of Asian women that had absolutely nothing to do with Kristi whatsoever) and he and his followers spent hours tweeting and re-tweeting pervy questions and innuendoes to her on the subject. This dogpile included one follower posting a ‘joke poll’ as to whether or not people would ‘even’ rape her- which Carl liked and re-tweeted.
~ One day when Carl was out shopping, he encountered a retail worker who was wearing (gasp) a “Feminist” t-shirt. He took her picture without her permission and posted it online, along with the name of the shop and the location. After this doxing, she was so badly harassed at work and frightened for her safety the police had to be involved.
~ When it became known that Alexsandr Kolpakov from the Youtube channel “The Skeptic Feminist” had murdered one of his female channel-mates (they were in a poly-amorous relationship) Carl and some of his friends went on a ghoulish livestream where he spent two hours awkwardly laughing at jokes like “there’s a feminist that got triggered for the last time”. Keep in mind he knew the members of this channel, had had a livestream with them and in fact they were the moderators of his debate with Dr. Winters. Yet he is unable to behave with empathy and consideration for others even when it involves people he knows.
MY POINT BEING…
Look, I could go on for some time about this ‘brolosopher’ and his consistent pattern of horrendous anti-social behavior, but it gets tiresome after a while. He is tiresome. At this point it’s fair to say that harassment (of many people but of women in particular) is his brand. He has no reason to actually engage in rational debate with anyone: he’s no good at it and the crap he pulls instead is working out just fine- for him, anyway. It’s a lot easier to play off his British accent and when truly challenged, smirk and point to his cheering followers as opposed to actually trying to defend the indefensible.
I did appreciate Thomas Smith’s attempt to challenge him, even as the “debate” degenerated into a bad Jerry Springer episode and he found himself the target of innuendoes and lies. We from the YT social justice community had really hoped it wouldn’t get this far- but the ‘tubes have started to be a lot less profitable for these guys so I suppose it was inevitable.
It’s funny in a way. People like Carl have made Youtube a real-life experiment in the Paradox of Tolerance, and now that they have burned this cash-cow out with their toxicity (turns out Nazi memes aren’t advertiser-friendly- who knew?) they are forced to leave their basements and bring their show on the road.
And that brings me to that part of the debate, when Carl’s rapey, sinister attack on Jess Phillip came up. And the crowd went wild with cheering.
I burst into tears. I couldn’t stop crying.
It took me two days to calm down so I could write this.
You see, shitlords like Carl can smirk and laugh about being “triggered”, can tell people like me that we need to learn to take a joke, but it doesn’t work that way. Believe me, I wish it did. I wish I didn’t have a button that people could push that makes my heart clench in pain and fear and leave me feeling only that much more broken and alone every time.
That’s why it took me so long to publicly speak up about it, and it leaves me genuinely afraid. I have handed a weapon to people who will not hesitate to use it against me. There isn’t anything I can do about that. But I wasn’t thinking about that right then- I was just feeling angry and helpless and angry and sad and alone and so…angry.
I tweeted out that I was furious at the atheist community, and I was. That I was devastated, and I was. That I couldn’t forgive.
I don’t know if that’s true yet.
The response from (non-feminist) atheists was anything but heartening. I was accused of being a Christian who was attacking them because of their lack of faith, which is laughable. I know because my husband laughed for like ten minutes straight. Darlings, I was unbelieving long before Hitchens made it cool.
I was lectured about how there is no atheist community, and I’m an idiot.
I was lectured about how I shouldn’t label the movement based on the actions of some of it members. When I mentioned maybe they ought to go tell it to the people making their community look bad instead of rape victims who get upset about the abhorrent actions of this (significant) few- after all, it wasn’t like all Catholic priests molested kids. Just enough to make it a problem, and not enough people doing the right thing about the ‘bad apples’; well then I was lectured about the immorality of virtue signaling.
I was told to shut the fuck up, c-nt. No one wanted to hear it.
And then there were one or two edgelords who were…kind. Decent. Empathetic, even.
So there is just enough hope to make it worth another shot.
HOW DO WE MOVE FORWARD- MY SUGGESTIONS
Well, here we are. I can’t imagine this is where anyone wanted to be, but… we don’t always get to choose.
If there is one thing I think we would all agree on, it’s that we would like to see the atheist/ skeptic/ humanist/ whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it movement be a positive force for secular values and normalization of the non-religious.
I couldn’t embrace the movement as it is now, myself. It is far too toxic, and toxic environments lead inevitably to abuses and harm. We all need to take some hard looks at ourselves and then start to talk honestly about how it got this way. We have to find the way out. Simply abandoning the whole enterprise is not acceptable; the dangers of anti-secularist, anti-science thinking have never been more dire. Doing nothing and hoping it fixes itself somehow is also unacceptable.
That just won’t work.
But there are many reasons to be hopeful. For one thing- isn’t fighting back against bad ideas kind of what you guys do? And do not be fooled- of course this is a battle of ideas. People like Sargon would have you believe that his is amoral and non-ideological; neutral. This could not be farther from the truth. While he is a bad example overall because his actions and statements are so contradictory and confused (a ‘left-leaning liberal’ who supported Brexit, Trump, LePen, and a wide assortment of other far-right causes; an ‘anti-authoritarian’ who calls for police violence against protesters, a ‘free speech absolutist’ who has attempted to / sometimes succeeded in de-platforming feminists (including me- I did cuss him out twitter once and that is against the rules, so fair enough- he reported me and I got a 12 hour time-out.)
Then again, I have heard, on very rare occasions, that a religious person may not practice when they preach…shocking but there are rumors to that effect. I suspect you may have heard them, perhaps even encountered the phenomenon for yourselves? I think you may find this to be similar.
So my recommendations are as follows: we need to get to know each other better. The podcasters, the Youtube content creators, the conference organizers. We need to build some bridges and find a way to work together, support one another. We need to challenge bad ideas with better ones, and we need to do it carefully and thoughtfully- because as we have seen, recklessness leads to…well, Milwaukee, apparently.
In any case, thanks for reading. I can’t wait to hear from you.
Yours With Love;