December 14, 2018

While I Was Out the Situation Deteriorated

Carl Benjamin, a YouTuber who goes by the ever-so-modest online handle of Sargon of Akkad got banned by Patreon earlier this week. 


Sargon is a Vlogger from the U.K. who opines on everything from video games to human rights. 

He's a bit of a troll.

OK he's a lot of a troll, albeit a particularly erudite one. 

He's definitely a mixed bag, occasionally doing absolutely spot on commentary like this take of the ethics and politics of STARSHIP TROOPERS of all things, and sometimes being an utter, douche, like here where he says mindnumbingly stupid stuff in defense of the Incel asshattery that is the asinine THOT audit. Sargon's a leftie and an atheist and so I disagree with him about a lot of things, but one of the things that I do agree with him about is his uncompromising stance on free speech. 

Here he is on his best behavior...

It seems that almost a year ago, for some inexplicable reason, Sargon used the "N word" while mocking and berating some white supremacists who's loathsome antics he has been reporting on; and who in turn have been getting all stalky and doxxy with his family. 

Now, using the "N-word" is always an inadviseable thing for us honky crackers. Indeed, this rule applies even when talking down to literal is evidenced by the fact that the literal nazis he was responding to reported his unwoke language to Patreon's reassuringly named Trust and Safety Council,* which promptly banned him....for something he'd said on a livestream that was not in any way associated with Patreon.

"And we should care because...?"

Here's why this bit of internet drama is a concern...

A solid argument can, of course, be made that Patreon should be allowed disallow any behavior on their platform that gives them hives. 

That's freedom.

However, if they are going to do that then that needs to be in the TOS, you can't just nuke someone who has not violated any of your terms of service. Which is exactly what Patreon did.  Worse, the offending behavior was not even on their platform. 

This is unethical. Highly unethical and means that Patreon at this point cannot be trusted to honor contracts. 

Thus Patreon sucks and will screw you over as soon as you're on the outs with the "cool kids".  The fact that the deplatforming seems to have been initiated by neo-nazis it not technically relevant but adds another layer of dreadfulness to the affair.

"'kaaay...So patronize someone besides Patreon."

INDEED! There ought to be no need for concern here. 
Sargon should take his money to a competitor who wants it. Everybody wins.
That's FREEDOM...enabled by capitalism.

Lo and behold, it turns out there is at least one Patreon-esque outfit struggling to get out of Patreon's shadow and find some killer ap to differentiate themselves from Patreon

Well, that killer ap is freedom of speech.

So, Mr. Benjamin went to Subscribe Star.
He was followed there by other creators** who were also de-platformed by Patreon. More significantly, he was also followed by a surprising number who feared that they might be banned due to their views and Patreon's demonstrated perfidy and lots of others who migrated in solidarity with some outre' concept called "freedom of speech".

"See. Competition works."
"Now, why are people saying that a limey s**tlord's bad 
customer service experience is DEFCON 5 for free speech?"

Well, it most assuredly wasn't.

Until it was. 

You see, Pay-Pal , the ubiquitous online payment service then told Subscribe Star to ban Sargon and the other Patreon refugees. Subscribe Star refused and Paypal has now just cut off Subscribe Star's payment system. Stripe did too, and according to Subscribe Star, appears to not be releasing the creators funds it is holding!

Subscribe Star, to their considerable credit, is not buckling.

15 Dec 06:57

Dear friends.
We are here now not to tell you that "we are sorry but they made us to shut our shop down and now we are going to cry ourselves to sleep goodbye”.
Just the opposite - we are fighting back and integrating new unbiased and predictable processors that will allow us to grow with you. This takes time, we estimate anywhere between 2 and 3 weeks from start to finish. This may require us to extensively travel across the globe for the best possible solution.
Stars, you have to know - all your money were successfully rescued from the PayPal and will be paid out to you in a timely manner. We had less luck with Stripe, but it all manageable.
Subscribers - we temporarily paused accepting new subscribers, as well as new donations and tips. All previously contributions are safe and will be distributed to corresponding Stars properly. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Our team is working tirelessly for all of us being able to secure our future without fear of being bullied by the crooks in corporate suits and their subservient weasels.
We are online and will stay so. We wish you the same.
Talk to you soon!
Truly yours, Team

"OK. That's genuinely scary."

That is the sort of thing that can lead to lead to idiot conspiracy theories, but this is where it gets scary. Here, is Jack Conte, founder and CEO of Patreon  on Dave Rubin's show a few months back discussing the culture of Silicon Valley.

If the embed doesn't cue right, the money quote is from 30:17 to 32:30

So these tech CEO's are all sitting down together or via conference call and deciding (amongst other matters of import) what their workers salaries are going to be. 

"Oh God. That's his....COVER STORY!?" 

Conte is describing the smoke filled rooms of Gilded Age trusts. These guys are also talking to each other about the issues of the day and who should and should not have a platform. This is a syndicate.

It get's worse..

You see, there was another Patreon-like outfit until very recently. Thunderclap was very much the same thing as Patreon although worked largely through Facebook

In August of this year, Thunderclap was shut down when Facebook disallowed it from using their services.

Being a Russian company Subscribe Star is somewhat outside of Silicon Valley's more direct sphere of influence,  certainly they are more immune to the social pressures of acceptance in the virtual Versailles of the San Jose' virtue signaling clique. However, like all online businesses, Subscribe Star is still dependent on online payment services, which, as we are seeing, do feel those pressures. And of course, it's run out it has all sorts of other potential issues, particularly regarding freedom of speech, election meddling and dangerous ursine bicyclists.

We're in a situation where the current bolt hole for free expression is a sketchy site run out of Russia, a situation that is so transcendentally wrong that it has left even the foul-mouthed Razorfist temporarily unable to cuss...

Razorfist embed atypically SFW              

I understand if one doesn't want to click on a Razorfist link, but he's right. When speech is disallowed, violence becomes the medium of discourse. This is a bad highway to be on. 

We often joke that Animal Farm, 1984, and Brave New World are not a three volume how to manual. For some people though, they are. We've now got fricking "Trust and Safety Councils" that turn anyone with the correct politics who hate the right people this minute into members of their little Stassi. With the power to control the information and to deny people financial services if they hold unpopular views, comes incredible power for mischief.

We've covered the Chinese Sesame Credit System before and that, I am convinced, is where many of the individuals behind this policing of speech want to be.

All it takes to bring about this dream of the anointed is for each of us to say "That guy's an asshole! He deserves what he gets. That bitch over there had it coming too, serves her right." and be silent, or smug, or report the asshole to the Trust and Safety Council. Then, because every one of us is an asshole to someone, we'll be kept in our place by the very crab bucket culture we are nurturing. Meanwhile, the archdukes and marquesses of Palo Alto "tend their fields" by cutting off any poppies that grow too high

With that coming to pass, like the Greek City States before it, the 300 year aberration that is the enlightenment will disappear into the 300,000 year+ history of humanity as a short lived deviation from the mean. Things relating to freedom will go back to much as they were for the majority of that time, albeit with rather less ability to express heretical thoughts.

We're not there yet though.

There are people who will hold their noses and stand up for the rights of shitlords to opine on the matters of the day and who understand that words are not violence but rather the way violence is avoided. There are still search engines like Duck Duck Go and Epic that offer the ability for a Z-list blogger in Virginia to look up a news story that some seem to want to want to bury and we still have access to books written by great minds who saw where the path we are on leads and warn us from the grave*** to avoid the mistakes their societies made and take a different exit.  

Despair not, the fact that this post and every link in it exists is proof that all is not lost. 

But be aware. Be vigilant, and  keep your eyes open for the inevitable rough patches on the unlit road ahead.

UPDATE 12/16: Fixed links/syntax and made small caption edits.

UPDATE 12/16: Removed Google screencap and associated text as it could not be duplicated and was not germane to the post (see comments).

*and totally not Orwellian at all.
**at least one of whom seems to have actually been a genuine racist degenerate
***So perhaps a Russian site being the guardian of liberty is not so incongruous as we might suppose.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 07:22 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
Post contains 1691 words, total size 20 kb.

1 An excellent writeup of the situation.

I'm not sure what happened with that Google search; it is returning results for me.

At least you weren't searching for the news about mrflglrp mmmf mmf where even reporting about the mmf mrfle has been mmfed.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sun Dec 16 09:35:29 2018 (PiXy!)

2 Google wasn't giving any results for PayPal Subscribe Star in NEWS in the timeframe LAST 24 HOURS
I used that criteria because I was looking for a non-blog news source and there was nothing about this particular story in Google's NEWS
Using the same criteria Duck Duck Go gave the Financial Times article linked as well as a You Tube Channel. Though I did not think to screengrab that.
The blank Google screen startled me.
This is the same search on Google now. Now it gives exactly one result.
Here's Google results as of this comment from NEWS and PAST WEEK (the story is over 3 days old now)
I think the bigger issue here is that this isn't seen as "NEWS!" by the journOlists.
I got notably better results Friday on Duck Duck Go, though today between Google ALL and DDG is infinitesimal. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Sun Dec 16 11:07:36 2018 (gxCG3)

3 While I don't feel much like defending Patreon at the moment, I'd rather nip potential conspiracy theories in the bud.  What Jack Conte was describing in terms of sharing salary data is what is known as "compensation benchmark data"  and it's extremely common in every industry and only not available when you're talking about highly specialized skills (e.g. independent musicians who have a wide range of specialties).  It helps companies determine if they are paying over/under market rate to an employee (or a group of employees) and adjust compensation accordingly.  As a manager, I've used such benchmark data to get significant salary increases for a couple of my staff in the past where they were transferred to me highly underpaid.  Sites such as provide the same sort of service to employees.
Basically, how it works is that a company develops a profile for each employee defining job role, time in that job role, location of job role, and what they are currently paying.  They'll subscribe to a service where that information is averaged with many other companies that have similar employee profiles to determine what the market rate (really more a range) for employees meeting that profile is.  

Posted by: StargazerA5 at Sun Dec 16 11:52:12 2018 (Q7Wqc)

4 Patreon, unfortunately, is developing a bad history. About a year ago, they attempted to make a change to their Patron payment terms where they instituted transaction fees. Given that many Patrons give $1-$3 a month, this would have substantially increased costs for them. It was actually a bit worse due to the timing of charges as some, formerly rolled up charges, would have become spread out over the month, but Patreon's scheme is too complicated to go into here. The reason it didn't happen is that Patrons bolted en mass when they learned about this, turning many Creators instantly non-viable.  This resulted in Creators threatening to bolt en mass.  Patreon backed down in short order.

Posted by: StargazerA5 at Sun Dec 16 11:54:49 2018 (Q7Wqc)

5 As the search result doesn't seem to be reproducible and the search criteria were overly narrow anyway, I removed the google search screencap and the associated sentence as noted in the update.

For those wondering what Pixy is going on about above, this is the screencap in question.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Sun Dec 16 21:17:22 2018 (gxCG3)

6 They must have been shamed into it because there are now results both for "paypal subscribe star" and "paypal subscribestar" and the second one is now an autocomplete suggestion.

Posted by: Rick C at Sun Dec 16 21:20:50 2018 (Iwkd4)

7 @ StargazerA5
Labor law is outside my bailiwick, but as I understood Conte, while he does mention publicly available databases, he's also referencing private agreements with other Corporations. More significantly to the subject at hand, the salary issue is presented in context of Rubin's question regarding the opinions of other CEOs in the valley regarding free speech issues. 
Conte seems to be saying that these issues are being discussed which makes sense given what has appeared to be coordination between various platforms in deplatforming incidents in the past.  The Rubin interview itself was in response to an earlier round of Patreon deplatformings which seemed to involve some behind the scenes coordination as the people and organizations involved found themselves unable to find alternatives. 

As I said in the post, this can quickly degenrate into crazy conspiracy theory territory and that is a concern but it does bear scrutiny. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Sun Dec 16 21:53:20 2018 (gxCG3)

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