Bread and Circuses of Outrage


Carl Benjamin: selling a hateful ideology

Well, Sargon of Akkad is at it again. In an 11-minute video suggesting that all feminists have autism, and that feminism and autism should become synonymous, Carl Benjamin generated another big splash of attention, just like he did when he told Jess Phillips “I wouldn’t even rape you.” 

However for this particular drunken rant, Carl seems to be recycling his own material. In a two-year old video titled “Feminism is a mental illness”, Carl said “Feminism is a mental disease, and anyone who is a feminist, has this disease! O you liars, you outright flat fucking liars! That’s it, it’s a lie, feminism is a bunch of liars, and if they believe this that means they are mentally unhinged! I think we should start a petition, saying feminism should be classiffied as a mental illness, because it exhibits all the symptoms.”

Carl basically re-did a 3-minute video from two years ago into an 11-minute video, just to reframe his ideology with a Kiwi Farms/Encyclopedia Dramatica meme that anything bad & contemptible is “autistic”. Carl’s promoting that whole groups of people should be labeled mentally ill & marginalized on the basis of their political beliefs – which contradicts the libertarian ideology Sargon says he wants to promote.

Thankfully, the idea itself doesn’t work  – for example, Sargon’s petition to suspend social justice courses doesn’t even specify which courses should be dropped. The ideas themselves are more like fantasies than plans to change anything. Carl’s selling his viewers a fantasy of a world where feminism is a mental disease, but it also threatens western society. Carl’s fantasy feminists are easy to fear and hate, and he invites his viewers to see them as “Orwell’s nightmare come to life.”

The fantasy Sargon sells must be a compelling one – according to his Patreon, 630 people donate $1500 per video to hear more. I wonder if they know the activism is bunkum, or if they think that Sargon’s petitions and public tantrums accomplish something. The only notable thing Sargon has done so far is select individuals for abuse. So it may not matter that his goals will never be accomplished; that two years later he’ll release a longer video, saying the same things, not from a place of conviction but to increase his yields. If his audience only wants to scream along at Sargon’s fantasy of what feminists are like, I suppose it doesn’t matter that Sargon’s ideas are so impracticable.

At this point I think it’s safe to say Carl gets drunk and says knowingly vicious things because he wants the publicity. Ultimately it doesn’t matter to him that his ideas aren’t going to work (feminism isn’t going to go into the DSM-6, women’s studies is still being taught at uni). Because saying outrageous things like that gets him publicity, and because the attention of publicity means more subscribers to his Patreon, Carl will keep doing it. But it isn’t just Sargon of Akkad who’s doing this – look at Milo Yiannopoulos’s behavior, or look at Donald Trump’s rallies. They’re doing the exact same thing as Carl does, to even more spectacular results.

“I wouldn’t even rape you”: A Feminist Analysis

A couple of days ago Carl of Swindon, aka “Sargon of Akkad”, the full-time #Gamergate ideologue and professional victimizer, tweeted this comment out to his thousands of followers:

I wouldn’t even rape you, .

Wow. The result of Carl’s tweet was a firestorm of similar abuse from his fans, with scores of people weighing in on whether or not they would rape this particular female politician. Yet there’s a lot to unpack in his comment – about Carl’s beliefs about rape and how Carl himself perpetuates rape culture.

Now, I don’t believe Carl is himself a rapist. But he seems to want to have his cake and eat it too when it comes to rape – to belittle and minimize female fear of rape whilst also reminding women that rape’s still an option in the male toolkit. And in this moment at least, he was certainly willing to invoke rape rhetorically as a way of asserting his dominance over this MP, who’s on the record discussing her own experiences of being sexually assaulted as a teen.

It sends a message. Carl’s got the ear of hundreds of like-minded fellows, who pay him handsomely to act as the full-time MC of a virtual pillory. In this role he enjoys some power and influence – perhaps not of the same caliber as a member of Parliament, but much more than he would if he were still just some schlub in a pub. Saying he “wouldn’t even rape” a female MP is red meat for this crowd, and I suspect Carl knows this. In fact, I suspect he said it to get attention and further build his brand on the notoriety.

The central thesis of “Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape” states: “Rape is a conscious process by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.” This seems like the kind of statement Carl would scoff at, but it might be closer to the truth than he would like to admit. After all, Carl knows he need not be a rapist to cash in on the terror rape inspires – he merely needs to invoke it to make his point. What Carl doesn’t seem to realize is that in some substantial fraction of men are indeed rapists, and to them this public discussion of whether or not certain rape victims are worthy of a second assault normalizes and supports their pro-rape outlook. Carl does seem to get that he could “trigger” some rape victims with this kind of talk. Again, that kind of thing is red meat to his channel.

This isn’t the first time Carl’s staked out positions that seem indefensible to me. He also defended Elliot Rodger’s killing spree, and in that instance he seemed to accept that mass shootings were an inevitable (if regrettable) resolution to incel ennui. To me, that bodes poorly for Carl’s internal compass. After all, if some men will inevitably start mass killings because they feel lonely, doesn’t it follow that some men will inevitably rape?

Carl’s been defending this comment because it’s phrased in the negative, but this seems insufficient. In fact, the whole thing seems like sour grapes. After all, Jess Phillips isn’t banging Carl’s door in looking for ravishment. He’s offering this comment apropos of nothing – so it’s similar to catcalling, except with an implicit threat of violence. If you’re not planning on raping anybody, why the fuck are you bringing it up at all? To call attention the fact that you could rape, if you chose to? To remind a sexual assault victim of a previous trauma? To build your channel and make a bit more money? Do tell me, Carl – I am sincerely interested to know.


The Problem With Patreon

Longtime readers might remember my ongoing beef with Patreon. And perhaps I have good reason for beef – since their October 2015 security fuckup, I’m certainly reluctant to trust them with my credit card info. And I’ve written at length about how certain creators on Patreon use the platform to crowdfund abuse. It’s true that I think Patreon’s fee structure gives them a vested interest in not investigating reports of abuse, especially when a popular/profitable account is accused of wrongdoing. And it does seem inevitable to me that this environment allows for a cottage industry of professional victimizers, people who make a living by putting other people – often other Patreon Creators – on a virtual pillory.

But I don’t want to lay all the blame at Patreon’s feet, because the vast majority of creators on Patreon are not scam artists or abusers. I want to think that my experiences with Patreon represent the exception, not the rule. I’d be the first in line to congratulate Patreon if they managed to fix the issues I’ve been harping on for the past year. But they haven’t, and so I’m here, writing another post about Patreon’s problems.

It seems obvious at this point that Patreon’s abuse follow-up procedure is not that good. I don’t mean the rumor that their abuse-reporting form is really a circular file – I mean that Patreon’s own staff seem overwhelmed by abusive clients on the platform. For example, on March 17, one of Patreon’s own staff members was harassed by a Creator and his Patrons for following up on an abuse complaint, basically right in front of me.

The details: It seems that Franchesca Ramsey, a writer for Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show”, was getting a lot of shade thrown her way by a well-characterized professional victimizer on Patreon – namely, Sargon of Akkad and the droogs who fund him. Ramsey was upset that Sargon (real name: Carl Benjamin) is making his rent money by ripping her YouTube videos to insult her, and Tweeted as much. One of my readers gave Ramsey a link to stuff I’ve previously written about Sargon, and then put me in touch with her. In the course of our public discussion on Twitter, a ‘community happiness’ employee of Patreon reached out to Ramsey to say:

“I am sorry to hear this. I appreciate the work you do. This has been reported to our trust and safety team to investigate.”

It seems Sargon got wind of this, and became worried this might actually rouse Patreon into taking action against his account. Tweeting at top gear, Benjamin mobilized his funding base to harass the shit out of Ramsey, the Patreon employee, and even me. Since that time, the Patreon employee is now a “Former print managing editor turned community happiness [at] Patreon.”  I don’t know whether that means she was terminated, or if she still works at Patreon- as you can see the account has gone private. 

Benjamin’s account, meanwhile, is still earning more than $1000 per video of him calling Laci Green “a little fucking airhead” (17:44) and posting creepily sexualized fan-art of her on his channel. Or publicly wishing that Matt Binder “got married, had his wife cheat on him and is now a broken man”. Or doing paid livestreams to repeatedly slag off Anita Sarkeesian, because he “like[s] milking lolcows”. (Note: Those are just a few examples of res ispa loquitur-grade verbal abuse to be found across Benjamin’s odious oevure.) 

Sargon’s backers often say statements like these are “criticism” or “fair comment”, but it just seems like abusive open letters funded by an angry mob. What’s more, these videos generate more abuse in turn, a positive feedback loop of troll one-upmanship (or as Sargon himself put it,”milking lolcows”.) Carl Benjamin might sell it as performance art or a satirical roast, but it’s really an online pillory, with himself as the Patreon-funded master of ceremonies.

Sargon isn’t an anomaly, though – Carl’s is but one of a bunch of similar accounts. For example, “The Sarkeesian Effect”, an film by Jordan Owen and Davis Aurini, collected about $45,000 in 2014-15 for a documentary largely agreed to be an inept pile of crap. Noted male atheist Phil Mason has also cashed in on the Sarkeesian brand, making dozens of videos about her and earning thousands of dollars per recording (he even did an interview with “The Sarkeesian Effect” guys.) And for every account that earns the big bucks, there are dozens more competitors in the same stock & trade – that is to say, other trolls willing to hurl insults from a virtual pillory for money and call it “philosophy, history and satire.”


Patreon explictly states in its Community Standards that “Upload[ing] content that is offensive and/or harmful, including, but not limited to, content that advocates, endorses, condones or promotes racism, bigotry, hatred or physical harm of any kind against any individual or group of individuals” is sufficient grounds to ban creators from the platform. Yet Sargon remains, airing his bigoted, pirate-ish videos for ~$1000 per recording. Even when their own staff is getting hounded by Sargon and his fanbase, Patreon’s only response seems to be to bury the complaints about this account. 

Again, Sargon isn’t an anomaly – there dozens of other creators on Patreon using similar business models (if we can call this a business), crowdfunding abuse to build their own little virtual pillories. And often as not, it’s other Patreon creators who are getting their content swiped to build some other guy’s channel.

At this point, it seems like Patreon might be a little bit resigned to what’s going on. And maybe I’m expecting too much, for a company that couldn’t get data security right to ban lucrative accounts on the grounds of abusive behavior. But if you see something, say something, right? Because it’s pretty brazen that Sargon’s harassing Patreon employees in front of me, yet that’s where we are right now.