Sargon of Akkad: A Thief, a Liar, and a Bully

Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad. (Source: YouTube/David Pakman Show)

Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad. (Source: YouTube/David Pakman Show)

There’s no argument that Sargon of Akkad’s (real name: Carl Benjamin) antifeminist videos are in bad taste. Offending people’s sensibilities is part of the product, part of why the videos appeal to neoreactionary dillweeds. Sargon’s job is to be a bombastic asshole who “debates” recordings of people his fans hate, delivering the grade-school put-downs his witless viewers simply don’t have the mental capacity to compose. His job, essentially, is to spin the news into something his viewers will find palatable and entertaining, for which he gets paid around $870 per video.

Sadly, Sargon violates the rules of the platforms he uses to raise his money and to distribute his videos – and quite possibly the laws of his country as well. Specifically, Sargon’s unlicensed theft of other people’s videos as fodder for him to mock is a violation of the copyright holder, and what he says violates several UK civil statues – namely, harassment and defamation. And given that Sargon’s job is basically to pour gasoline on a raging trash fire, it would seem he is morally (if not legally) responsible for the additional harassment his videos generate.

It isn’t “fair use”, it’s theft

Stealing a video from YouTube so that you can record yourself abusing its maker for profit is not “fair use” by any rational definition of the word. Fair use generally requires a work to be transformative, i.e. not a reproduction of the original work. It doesn’t help that Sargon tends to sample videos in their entirety, and that he does so as a commercial enterprise.

Some might defend what Sargon does as “parody”, which is protected by fair use. But for Sargon’s work to qualify as a parody, it would have to provide a social benefit, and it would have to change the source work in a substantial way to create an entirely new and original work. (For reference, this is an actual parody of Anita Sarkeesian.) Simply insulting the person or thing you’re trying to parody doesn’t cut it – that’s just being a dick. Since Sargon’s “commentary” would be meaningless without the videos he steals, his work is not transformative or original in any substantial way.

Just because Sargon’s videos get past YouTube’s bootleg filter does not mean they’re not copyright infringement. The fact that Sargon would probably never get permission from creators to sample their videos isn’t a suitable justification for stealing them, either. In fact, some of Sargon’s videos have been taken down for copyright infringement, like his hot take on the first Republican primary debate. Let’s be honest – YouTube and Patreon have a greater incentive to heed copyright infringement claims made by Fox News than they do from private individuals, and that’s why Sargon’s videos stay online.

It isn’t “free speech”, it’s harassment and defamation

It always tickles me how Sargon and his followers pivot to a 1st Amendment defense of his work, given that UK citizens aren’t entitled to rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. The laws that govern Sargon and right to his free expression are actually much more restrictive than the ones that govern me & mine, as I write this in New York. Specifically, the UK has very stringent, and very plantiff-friendly laws against harassment and defamation.

In the Nanny State, harassment is defined as any action which amounts to harassment of another person, which the harasser knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of that person. Most notably, the person doing the harassing does not even have to have a motive or intention to harass, so long as the contact is unwanted by the recipient. So, for example, if Sargon made a video examining Ellen Pao’s sexual discrimination lawsuit, he wouldn’t need to mean for it to be harassing for it to potentially qualify as harassment.

UK defamation law is unkind to Sargon as well. In that case, Sargon is liable for anything he says about the people he targets which would be apt to make the average citizen to think worse of them.

Now, the truth is an absolute defense against defamation. But in the UK, the burden of proof rests on the defendant. For example, if Sargon repeatedly accused Matt Binder of being a “liar”, and Binder sued him for it, it would be up to Sargon to prove that Binder did, in fact, lie during his radio broadcasts. As far as I can tell, the only reason Sargon hasn’t already been sued because the people he pillories haven’t initiated litigation against him. But that doesn’t mean what he says is actually legal.

It isn’t “satire”, it’s incitement

It’s important to consider that Sargon’s fans are already pig-biting mad at the people he attacks online. In fact, being widely hated already is an important selection criterion when Sargon makes his videos, because his fans want him to roast someone they already know & love to hate.

To Sargon, the people whose hurt he profits from are an abstraction. To him, these videos are a business, and one his own family depends on. But actually being a subject on Sargon’s show is a positive feedback loop for harassment: people who already receive a lot of internet death threats are more likely to be featured, and if they are featured, the amount of harassment they receive is likely to increase. If Sargon’s video creates a lot of harassment for a person, he’s more likely to feature them in subsequent videos.

To keep his channel online, Sargon goes out of his way to label his work as “satire” or “commentary”, but really he’s just pushing the envelope; harassing his targets enough to get the viewers he needs without getting himself canned from Patreon and YouTube.

There’s nothing “satirical” about Sargon’s videos, because he honestly believes what he says. He honestly believes that feminists and feminism are a mental illness needing to be destroyed. Anita delenda est. 

Sargon may even be legally culpable of incitement, by encouraging others to commit acts of harassment. In the UK, you can be liable for incitement even if your remarks were addressed to the world at large, and one’s encouragement need not have any actual effect on the crime committed. By this rubric, Sargon’s videos would seem like a particularly reckless form of incitement: he broadcasts hate speech to a dedicated fandom of angry sexists.

I have always been a little surprised by the huge viewership Sargon commands, given that you could go to any pub in the Midlands and find blokes like him yelling at the lady on the local TV news for free. But unlike some chap running his mouth, Sargon has a fandom that takes his words to heart, and who have a proven history of harassment.

Sargon of Akkad is pouring gasoline on a fire. So far, the spectacle has made Patreon, YouTube, and Sargon himself a good bit of money. But if someone gets burned, it’ll be Sargon- and the platforms who hosted him- that will be to blame.

Edit: added a paragraph about UK incitement law.

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39 thoughts on “Sargon of Akkad: A Thief, a Liar, and a Bully

  1. Fair use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, search engines, CRITICISM, parody, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship. It provides for the legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author’s work under a four-factor balancing test. -Wikipedia

    You see how I put criticism in caps? His work doesn’t need to be fully transformative because he criticizes and that by itself is covered by fair use. how could people like Moviebob or Totalbiscuit exist otherwise, they need to use other people’s work to then critique it.

    Also, being inflammatory to the so called “fandom” that Sargon has is harassment, (Now, it’s awfully handy for you being protected by the 1st amendment.)

    you also refer to a wiki page about harassment law in the UK but on the actual website: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ I found this subsection:
    Subsection (1) does not apply to a course of conduct if the person who pursued it shows—
    (a)that it was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime,
    (b)that it was pursued under any enactment or rule of law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any enactment, or
    (c)that in the particular circumstances the pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable.

    the C point is the one I am interested about because where do you draw the line between reasonable or not, I think critique is reasonable, but that is my interpretation of the law.

    Defamation law: you say that it would be required for sargon to prove that he is right and whilst that is true did you consider the possibility that he might be saying the truth and is thus not being legally charged because both party knows that it is true. If my name would be used in anything unjust I will charge the hell out of those people because my reputation depends on it.

    Now upon the idea that Sargon is promoting harassment and wants his “fandom” to attack its people. one word: wrong. Why? because he speaks out against it. and thats all he can do, because people choose their own course of action and whilst they might be influenced by certain things they still choose what they want to do, it is not the fault of a critic when his opinion sparks harassment.

    I’m not going to go in with the incitement law because you even state that it may or may not culpable of incitement, it’s a blurred line and I want to keep it that way.

    this is all, I’m not trying to be hateful, just throwing in my 2 cents in the well.

    • Oh, what lovely irony. I can see you are one of those people who defend Sargon as if he is the 2nd coming of Christ himself. You are one of those people who always think that criticism is either harrassment or censorship. Yet, every piece of “criticism”, no matter how vile, you, or Sargon, spit out is somehow not harrassment or censorship. That’s ok. You will grow up one day and see that Sargon is pathetic. He pushes the narrative that he and the manchildren are victimized by feminists and progressives. He is always outrages over people who have legit outrage like blacklivesmatter. He belongs on Fox News.

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  3. How is Sargon a thief? Just wondering. Because that’s a criminal accusation, and subject to defamation laws, even in the US. I mean, you mentioned that he makes money from what he does, but as far as I know, Patreon isn’t an accomplice to theft of funds from unwilling patrons.

    No court of law would consider that to be theft (or even fraud–there’s a better case for fraud against Sarkeesian, seeing has how she’s 3 years behind in delivering what she promised to backers who fronted her the money, while Sargon gets paid only when he uploads), so unless you have some actual accusation of actual theft to make that would give you the “absolute defence” of truth, you might want to rethink your title. Just saying.

    Ya know, as long as we’re flinging accusations around…

    • Hi Karen;

      Well, if you read what I wrote above, I think Sargon is a thief because he’s stealing videos without permission. That’s a violation of the copyright, which belongs to the people who make these videos.

      Sampling a video entirely so you can abuse the person who makes it isn’t fair use. So a lot of the content of his videos is stolen.

      He’s also stolen money from his backers, raising money for a video game he doesn’t seem to be making.

      So that’s fraud (for his backers) in the amount of 8,016 pounds and theft of copyrighted material (aka bootlegging.)

      Thanks so much for reading.
      – Margaret

      • “Sampling a video entirely so you can abuse the person who makes it isn’t fair use. So a lot of the content of his videos is stolen.”

        You’re a copyright attorney? Fair use (particularly for purposes of parody, commentary, criticism or pastiche) is subject to fairly broad interpretation. Moreover, copyright infringement is a completely different crime than theft, and is typically pursued as a civil, rather than criminal, matter.

        “Copyright has the noble goal of promoting progress and protecting authors from unfair competition, and grants a limited monopoly to authors over the production and dissemination of their creative expression to incentivize further creative production.”

        In other words, copyright laws exist to prevent someone like Sargon from reproducing the works of others and selling them as if they are his to sell (or giving them away and depriving them of sales). That is, if I owned a printing press and decided to reproduce someone else’s book and sell copies out of the trunk of my car (bootlegging).

        It does not exist to protect a creator’s work from commentary or criticism.

        I’ve had two copyright strikes on my channel, both of them fraudulent (claiming I’d infringed on works that did not exist, according to google). They were quietly retracted after I threatened to sue, and reminded everyone that filing a fraudulent claim is, in fact, filing a false document with a federal court, which is perjury. I spoke extensively with a copyright attorney when this occurred, and became very well acquainted with my rights as both a creator and a critic.

        However, the few works I have had removed were similar to Sargon’s (video criticisms of some feminists known as “those pesky dames”), and could not be removed for violation of copyright, as they were uploaded under the default license agreement on YouTube, rather than the more stringent licensing Fox News likely uses. Typically, even this more stringent setting does not enable copyright infringement claims when fair use applies, but merely prevents the channel from monetizing the video in question–something that happened to me when I used clips of “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” in a video.

        Fox’s case is very shaky, and likely would not stand up in court, but because of the unequal degree of power/money involved, Fox knows it can get away with pulling the video down, because Sargon doesn’t have the wherewithal to take the case to court.

        In the case of most regular YouTubers, there’s no case at all. If YouTube allowed him to monetize the videos, they were uploaded under the default license and therefore fair game for how he’s using them under fair use provisions.

        TL;DR:

        1) copyright infringement is not synonymous with theft. Calling him a thief is inaccurate at best.
        2) Sargon’s videos, including the one he received a strike over, arguably fall under fair use provisions that would likely be upheld in court, as they are transformative works.

      • The people who made these videos posted them onto the internet and are free to be judged. All Sargon does is take the video, watch it, and analyze it. This is covered under fair use as he is critequing the issue discussed in the video. He isn’t stealing from his backers as he is using the money people willingly give him to to do whatever he wants. This isn’t stealing because people can stop donating if they wanted to.

  4. I think you are certainly entitled to your opinions about Sargon. However, I think if things are as dire as the picture you paint, that legal action would be required to deal with him. Many of Sargon’s critics have tried to have his videos taken down, to the best of my knowledge, he has never failed on an appeal to youtube on the basis of fair use. If youtube thought there was even a hint of a legal case, they would keep the video down. So, I find the reasoning a bit specious. Again, you are very much entitled to your opinions but I do think they are inaccurate.

    • Interesting you should say that- I think Sargon’s (and your) insistence that because he never seeks permission from people he samples his videos MUST be fair use is specious in the extreme. Fair use covers stuff like educational, satirical, or transformative uses – and Sargon’s case for fair use is further weakened by the for-profit nature of his channel.

      See more about this here: https://idledillettante.com/2015/08/18/specific-instances-of-copyright-infringement-by-sargon-of-akkad-a-data-based-approach/

      Thanks for reading.

      • Actually, most people who have had their content on Sargon’s channel and filed a complaint have been turned away by Youtube. It’s not our “insistence” that is keeping us away from realizing this as theft but rather our acknowledgement that youtube has investigated and discarded such claims.

        Edited to add.

        Also, you can say that he has had some videos taken down for copyright infringement. Fair statement. I wouldn’t go judging Tubers on that though. It’s common for many Tubers to have an accidental infringement. Thing is, he has a record showing this isn’t a common occurrence.

        I say all this as someone who has only seen a few videos of his at scattered times in the past and as someone who just started watching more of his content as of (literally) last week. I am impressed by him so far but I am not completely sold. I am skeptical. I just figured I’d say that because after reading most of these comments, I figured I’d either be dismissed or diminished as a “fanboy”. Which is absurd. How many calling others fanboys are just haters? One could assume a decent sized minority considering confirmation bias would suggest people came here to feel correct about the subject and person Sargon. I came to challenge my opinion on him. I leave not feeling challenged.

  5. Ps to my knowledge Sargon has had at least two of his videos taken down for copyright infringement claims – the 1st GOP debate last August and more recently Oxford University also successfully had YouTube take down a diff. Video by him. Sorry I forgot to mention it in the 1st comment

  6. Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments after you posted them. Both here and on twitter. I just spoke to my close friend who is Intellectual Property Rights lawyer (having him a block away is handy!) He says your fair use analysis is off. To be fair, he only quickly glanced at the two blog postings but he cited wide leeway for informational use video even by for profit entities. We probably won’t see eye to eye here but I think the large number of these types of videos that remain up on youtube not just by Sargon but by many in the youtube community suggests that you might be wrong on your position. Always happy to look at stronger evidence to the contrary though!

  7. Saying Sargon steals videos is about as accurate as your claim that I (one of Sargon’s subscriber’s) am a raging sexist. It presupposes knowledge of things that you do not understand in the least and are making wild assumptions about. Sargon uses other people’s videos to provide context for the arguments and critique that he provides as rebuttals for their own arguments. Sargon is debating the statements of people, which falls squarely under fair use.

    It is also noteworthy that you preface your accusation of Sargon by saying, “There’s no argument that Sargon of Akkad’s antifeminist videos are in bad taste.” You’re vilifying him in an attempt to gain the reader’s sympathy. A legitimate accusation needs no prior negative opinion to hold water and furthermore, negative opinions naturally crop up when witness to contemptible actions. Also, I just did what Sargon does, I took your argument and rebutted it. Am I a “Thief, Liar, and Bully” now? I would argue quite the opposite, and I would say that you, the author of this article are attempting to engender hatred and anger against him. How can I make such wild and far-reaching accusations? By seeing you defame the man, regardless of your insults and their veracity, you yourself are as you say, fuelling the fire of hate against Sargon by providing his real name as a target for those who support you.

    But who am I kidding? Sargon can fight his own battles, it’s what he does every day in his videos. Your article is poorly written, and your arguments are spurious and groundless. If you’ll carefully note, I haven’t used foul language, or racist/sexist/etc-ist slurs. I certainly haven’t used any hate speech. I’ve merely done what Sargon does, and will continue to do for many, many more years.

    -“A witless, neoreactionary, pig-biting mad, angry dillweed and sexist.”

  8. Saying Sargon steals videos is about as accurate as your claim that I (one of Sargon’s subscriber’s) am a raging sexist. It presupposes knowledge of things that you do not understand in the least and are making wild assumptions about. Sargon uses other people’s videos to provide context for the arguments and critique that he provides as rebuttals for their own arguments. Sargon is debating the statements of people, which falls squarely under fair use.

    It is also noteworthy that you preface your accusation of Sargon by saying, “There’s no argument that Sargon of Akkad’s antifeminist videos are in bad taste.” You’re vilifying him in an attempt to gain the reader’s sympathy. A legitimate accusation needs no prior negative opinion to hold water and furthermore, negative opinions naturally crop up when witness to contemptible actions. Also, I just did what Sargon does, I took your argument and rebutted it. Am I a “Thief, Liar, and Bully” now? I would argue quite the opposite, and I would say that you, the author of this article are attempting to engender hatred and anger against him. How can I make such wild and far-reaching accusations? By seeing you defame the man, regardless of your insults and their veracity, you yourself are as you say, fuelling the fire of hate against Sargon by providing his real name as a target for those who support you.

    But who am I kidding? Sargon can fight his own battles, it’s what he does every day in his videos. Your article is poorly written, and your arguments are spurious and groundless. If you’ll carefully note, I haven’t used foul language, or racist/sexist/etc-ist slurs. I certainly haven’t used any hate speech. I’ve merely done what Sargon does, and will continue to do for many, many more years.

    -“A witless, neoreactionary, pig-biting mad, angry dillweed and sexist.”

  9. I love this. Sargon is vile. He claims he is liberal, but he always attacks the Left. Rarely does he go after fools on the Right like Glenn Beck. The other day, someone told me he said that “Marxism is dead to everyone but the West”. I guess he doesn’t really know much about China. He often tries to sound smart, but intelligent people know he sounds stupid. His popularit is predicated on the fact that his audience is either young and uniformed, or of any age and highly misinformed. Again, thank you for writing this.

    • He’s british. In britain liberalism is a more conservative current. Also, care to cite those ‘intelligent people’?
      And… china? Have you ever been in china? Those guys are about as marxists as me. Really. Yeah, they have a state contolled economy/society but their relationship with the marxist ideal is virtually non-existant. Because I doubt Marx would like the word market placed next to communism (and leave alone the many other differences between the maoism and marxism).

      • Ok, I don’t know why you’re just kind of agreeing with me but not st the same time. Honestly, I can’t imagine any educated person seeing Sargon as anything but the the charlatan he is. He is a fraud and a bully. He was just bullying a young black girl on twitter through other day. He mocked her, pinned it to his twitter, and 800 mindless lemmings “favorited” his tweet. I consider the woman above to be intelligent. There is also an English, elderly man on YouTube, name Bruce, who criticizes Sargon. I take it you are one of his zombie who support him as if he is infallible as the pope. He is the pope of mras and adult manchildren everywhere.

  10. ‘There’s no argument that Sargon of Akkad’s (real name: Carl Benjamin) antifeminist videos are in bad taste.’

    I think we’re off to a bad start already. What is bad taste and how do you measure it? I think what you meant here was ‘There is no doubt that I don’t like this person’.

    ‘Offending people’s sensibilities is part of the product, part of why the videos appeal to neoreactionary dillweeds. Sargon’s job is to be a bombastic asshole who “debates” recordings of people his fans hate, delivering the grade-school put-downs his witless viewers simply don’t have the mental capacity to compose.’

    Kevin Logan, ArmoredSceptic, ShoeOnHead, Steve Shives, Rebecca Watson, TL:DR, and all the movie review shows out there are also included in that description. You do know how YouTube reaction shows work? I’m doing the same thing to this article you’ve written; I’m responding to it point by point. I would imagine that you would do the same thing when you did your English Lit exams.

    ‘His job, essentially, is to spin the news into something his viewers will find palatable and entertaining, for which he gets paid around $870 per video. Sadly, Sargon violates the rules of the platforms he uses to raise his money and to distribute his videos – and quite possibly the laws of his country as well.’

    The man has won every takedown claim ever filed against him. Now, correlation does not equal causation of course, so that does not mean that there is anything shady going down. At this point, however, there has been no evidence presented that there has been any funny business.

    ‘Specifically, Sargon’s unlicensed theft of other people’s videos as fodder for him to mock is a violation of the copyright holder, and what he says violates several UK civil statues – namely, harassment and defamation. And given that Sargon’s job is basically to pour gasoline on a raging trash fire, it would seem he is morally (if not legally) responsible for the additional harassment his videos generate.’

    Morality tends to get brought out to play when Legal procedures haven’t worked. Oh, wont someone please think of the children. The fair use policy of YouTube is actually pretty robust; a bit iffy and filled with grey areas, yes, but robust nonetheless.

    ‘It isn’t “fair use”, it’s theft.’

    Citation needed.

    ‘Stealing a video from YouTube so that you can record yourself abusing its maker for profit is not “fair use” by any rational definition of the word. Fair use generally requires a work to be transformative, i.e. not a reproduction of the original work. It doesn’t help that Sargon tends to sample videos in their entirety, and that he does so as a commercial enterprise.’

    Those links you posted. I’m not sure you read them through.

    ‘Some might defend what Sargon does as “parody”, which is protected by fair use. But for Sargon’s work to qualify as a parody, it would have to provide a social benefit, and it would have to change the source work in a substantial way to create an entirely new and original work. (For reference, this is an actual parody of Anita Sarkeesian.) Simply insulting the person or thing you’re trying to parody doesn’t cut it – that’s just being a dick. Since Sargon’s “commentary” would be meaningless without the videos he steals, his work is not transformative or original in any substantial way.’

    Why does a parody need to provide a social benefit? I’m looking at the dictionary definition of parody and social benefit isn’t mentioned there. And let’s address something here quickly; being a dick is a horrid and nasty thing, but I would support your right to be a dick to anyone. Remember Team America? Sometimes you need to be a dick.

    ‘Just because Sargon’s videos get past YouTube’s bootleg filter does not mean they’re not copyright infringement.’ The fact that Sargon would probably never get permission from creators to sample their videos isn’t a suitable justification for stealing them, either. In fact, some of Sargon’s videos have been taken down for copyright infringement, like his hot take on the first Republican primary debate. Let’s be honest – YouTube and Patreon have a greater incentive to heed copyright infringement claims made by Fox Newsthan they do from private individuals, and that’s why Sargon’s videos stay online.’

    Or they don’t actually infringe on copyright law.

    ‘It always tickles me how Sargon and his followers pivot to a 1st Amendment defense of his work, given that UK citizens aren’t entitled to rights guaranteed by the US Constitution.’

    Yeah, because we have ‘the European Convention, and the guarantee of freedom of expression it contains in Article 10, into its domestic law under the Human Rights Act. However, there is a broad sweep of exceptions including threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior intending or likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress or cause a breach of the peace’.

    ‘The laws that govern Sargon and right to his free expression are actually much more restrictive than the ones that govern me & mine, as I write this in New York. Specifically, the UK has very stringent, and very plantiff-friendly laws against harassment and defamation.’

    And Sargon has yet to fall foul of it.

    I have to admit that that’s about as far as I’ve got with the article. I’ll be honest here; I think you’re arguing from a position of emotional investment more than factual evidence. The comments above – especially those of Karen Straughn – do a far better job of dissecting this than I do.

    As ever, all C&C welcome.

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  13. Well, collectivist cultural marxists are thiefs, liars and bullies. In fact, I wouldn’t rape you either. At least ACTUAL BIOLOGISTS are critical rationalists and don’t believe in postmodernist pseudoscience , not like some frauds that can themselves biologists.

  14. While Sargon can insult people, and go a little far in his criticism, any assertion that the videos, in which he uses other people’s videos as a backdrop which he commentates over, are criminal is just ridiculous. Fair use covers criticism, and even of you want to say that his videos aren’t criticism, fair use also allows for commentary. Even by espousing your own beliefs over the other video, the change is meaningful enough to make it legal to post, and profit off of. If people truly had to abide by the rule you set forth in your article, then a shit load of the most popular people on youtube wouldn’t be able to monetize their videos. You seem to have a flawed perception of how fair use works.

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