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.

The Reality Condom; or, the reality of condoms

Content Warning for HOT SEX.

In my short, hedonistic life I’ve had sexual relations with a number of men. Not all men of course; but more than a score and less than a hundred. And none of my lovers have taken condom-wearing very seriously.

The most common excuse (or reasoning) I get is one of sensations. Wearing condoms doesn’t feel as good to them, although most men can orgasm while wearing condoms. Another excuse I have heard is “Don’t you trust me?” as if condom-wearing was some symbol of distrust, and not a safety device. (If you got in a friend’s car and put on your seat belt for the ride, would it be logical for him to take offense that you didn’t “trust” him to drive carefully?)

I’ve never known a man to actually carry condoms, for they expect me to have them. (And I often do.) If I’m on hormonal BC getting a man to wear a condom is harder than winning a presidential debate. It’s gotten to a point that I simply won’t use the pills unless I’m going steady with someone (and ready to expose myself to all their past sex partners.) I’ve even handed a condom to a man I was about to fuck and he coyly threw it away. (He didn’t get a call-back, then stalked me for months.)

I thought the problem was me, or my taste in lovers; but then I read this article in the Times, and this one by Jessica Valenti; and also this petition by Parsemus.org. Apparently fewer than 20% of men use condoms, and historical declines in condom use are correlated with increases in use of other (woman-controlled) methods like hormonal BC. So it isn’t just me; apparently nearly all women (<80%) have to fight with their boyfriends to make them put on a rubber.

This brings me to a device called the female condom; sometimes marketed under the brand “The Reality Condom.”

realitycondom

“Today’s protection for today’s woman.” Which idiot wrote this packaging copy?

Male condoms sometimes have suggestive, sexy names; like Trojan, Kimono, Sir Richard’s, etc. Or they may have neutral names like Lifestyles, Crown, or Trustex. But we girls get the “Reality” condom; as if asking a man to be responsible for his own contraceptives is some kind of fantasy.

There’s another shitty reality to the Reality condom. They’re hard to find and expensive. Most drug stores only stock male condoms; even sex toy stores like Babeland don’t always keep them in stock (they sell out quickly, LOL.) On Amazon, you can buy 5 reality condoms for $18.95, or a whopping 3.79 per condom (excluding cost of shipping.)

By comparison you can get 48 Kimono condoms (my preferred brand) on Amazon for $19.68… a cost of 41 cents per condom (excl. shipping.) Female condoms cost nine times that of male ones. And according to one couple interviewed by the Times, the Reality condom has all the visual allure of a trash can liner.

Now, I’m not some condom fetishist. I don’t particularly like wearing bits of latex during sex; there’s issues of lubrication, chafing & etc. It can be difficult to stop yourself (or your partner) during foreplay to put a condom on; and it’s harder still if he starts whining about it like a schoolboy. But the vast majority of men seem to think condom-wearing is somehow optional but contraception is not, which is incredibly foolish.

Firstly, it’s foolish because the pill doesn’t protect against STIs. You can still give a woman HIV if she’s on the pill. Secondly, it’s foolish because men have to take the woman’s word for it that she’s on the pill and trust her (that “trust” again) to use them correctly. So by not wearing a condom, a man shunts the responsibility for contraception onto the woman he’s sleeping with.

And if the woman’s birth control fails, she must choose between two equally horrible options. If she elects to end the pregnancy, there’s a certain breed of woman-hater who thinks she has no right. And if she carries the pregnancy to term, there’s a certain breed of man who thinks she has no right to expect child support. If you read AVFM enough you will find men angrily writing both viewpoints: that women have no right to abort their children; nor have they the right to raise those children with their paycheck (i.e. demand child support.) Some woman-haters even think men should have a right to disown any children they don’t *want* to pay for, as a right commensurate to a woman’s right to termination.

Let me bring this back to the “Reality” condom. In my links above you might have noticed there’s been some developments in the whole male-birth-control front: both a “clean sheets” pill which stops ejaculation (though orgasm still happens) and a polymer called Vasalgel which works like a reversible vasectomy. (Neither of these things are currently available for consumer use in the US; but there is a pilot project in India.) But how many dudes are going to let a doctor inject their scrotum with a polymer if they can’t be bothered to roll a latex sheath over their penis? Why should I expect someone too selfish for condoms to take a pill every day to forestall ejaculation?

The reality of contraception for women today might be summed up as “Your body, your problem.” We’re ones who get pregnant and overwhelmingly it’s women who have to deal with the consequences. We’re at least 80% responsible for using contraception, not because there aren’t suitable male options (like condoms) but because it’s our bodies, ergo our problem. Engineering male contraceptives won’t do anything to dismantle the attitude that using contraception is women’s work.

Eron Gjoni’s Restraining Order & Inability to Stop Discussing his Ex Online

Hi all! Today I’m writing to update on the Eron Gjoni lawsuit situation; wherein our narcissistic, jilted subject faces the grave injustice of being legally forced not to discuss Zoe Quinn; an injunction which he seems physically incapable of following.

When we last left Creep Throat, he was none too pleased with the article I wrote two days ago doubting the reality of his pending litigation. He made a few statements (which made little sense to anyone, even his fans) then promised me a better explanation in a few hours. For the sake of charity I gave him the rest of the day, then looked over what news I could find this morning.

A few hours after my conversation with Gjoni on Twitter, some #GamerGate dude on Reddit posted this account of a hearing in the matter of Eron vs. His Ex and the Fempire. TW, because this is Reddit; and the comments to his post especially prove (to me at least) why a protection order seems like a smart idea for Quinn. But here’s what this anonymous witness says went down in the court:

(I am aware that some people want to keep ZQ issues separate from gamergate, but given that this community very generously crowdfunded Eron’s legal defense, I wanted to make sure that those who are interested know what’s going on.)

ZQ filed and was granted an ex parte 209a order against Eron in mid September and on Tuesday it was extended for a year. Note that this is a physical abuse prevention order. It is meant to protect victims of physical abuse, not victims of internet harassment (you want a 258e for that). (Issues relevant to 209a orders that were in the affidavit but not brought up at the hearing are addressed in the footer of this post.*)

The reason you haven’t heard anything about the case is that the order contains a written in PRIOR RESTRAINT ON FREE SPEECH, which is absolutely absurd (ZQ reported his participation in this KoP stream to the police as a violation of the ex-parte order, so now he also has to have a hearing for that). I however, have no such restraint, and thus it is entirely within my rights to discuss public court hearings and public court documents. And should any overly litigious public figures with questionable ethical principles think about changing that, I’d recommend they take a look at Nilan v. Valenti first.

My memory is mediocre, so take my version of events with a grain of salt.

So Eron’s not being charged with a crime or civil infraction, I guess (I’m not a lawyer); but he is fighting a restraining order Quinn filed against him. Note that he would not need legal funds if he didn’t want to protest/appeal the restraining order. If he didn’t care to dispute it, he wouldn’t even have to come to court. 

Apparently, It’s so *important* for Gjoni to be able to discuss his ex online, he’s willing to appear in court to defend his right to do so. It also sounds like he’s willing to violate the restraining order by talking about her to #gamergaters. Doing this forces Quinn to monitor Gjoni’s behavior and report infractions to the court, although it’s apparent she wants no contact with him (hence the restraining order.)

And to the #gamergaters eating this shit up, it’s Eron whose the victim here, even though speaking and writing at length about his ex has always been a free choice for him. His right to talk about Quinn’s life, work history, etc. apparently trumps Quinn’s right to be safe from the harassment and intimidation of an angry mob. At least, that’s what these guys think is true.

More from Eron’s anonymous bestie (note that he’s paraphrasing):


Her:

Eron posted personal information about me online. As a result, people online have threatened me with physical harm. Eron continues to engage with the mob that is harassing me with no regard to my personal safety. Specifically, Eron threatened to release more information on his gofundme page.

Eron’s attorney:

I will speak on my client’s behalf, and then acquiesce to my client. Zoe Quinn is a public figure and criticism of public figures is protected free speech (with the specific example of criticism of her interaction with TFYC). ZQ was already receiving harassment before Eron’s blog post. Eron has never threatened ZQ with violence and has never encouraged anyone to threaten ZQ with violence. Thezoepost was a story about Eron’s life experiences and did not even include ZQ’s real name.

Eron:

[Did not get to speak at all because the judge cut his attorney off to ask more questions of the plaintiff]

The judge didn’t really say much and started writing half way through the arguments.

*He did not allow Eron’s attorney to cross examine the plaintiff

*He did not allow admission of Eron’s evidence

*He refused the Attorney’s first amendment objection to the gag clause

*He mentioned nothing about his reasoning besides a vague reference to ‘intimidation’.

Order extended until x/x/2015

There’s some issues with this “defense”. Let me go through them.

First of all: thezoepost mentions Zoe Quinn by her full name six times in the text; and many more times in the screenshots from her Facebook. So for Eron’s lawyer to state court that it doesn’t is a huge lie. 

Second of all: There are also photos of Quinn in thezoepost and screencaps of her facebook page; this is not some anonymous dude venting about a disappointing life experience. This is a clear effort to trash Quinn’s reputation and ruin her personal, professional and romantic life. I know that because Eron fucking states so in the TL;DR at the top of the novella-length post. (“This exists to warn you to be cautious of Zoe.”)

Thirdly: being harassed before Eron wrote thezoepost serves to show why he did it. Gjoni knew there was an audience of men who disliked Quinn, and thought he could mobilize them to get the revenge he wants, but didn’t want to ruin his reputation for. Gjoni’s made many attempts to reframe thezoepost in the context of abuse awareness or whatever; but in my dealings with him it’s apparent he has no remorse for Zoe’s harassment, except to the extent that it makes him look bad or legally culpable.

Even when told through the lens of someone with no desire to represent Quinn fairly, her desire to be left the fuck alone sounds eminently reasonable. And since the the problematic behavior Eron engages in the most is remorselessly stirring the pot of angry Redditors and 4channers who want to rape her to death a gag clause seems reasonable too. That’s because Gjoni’s inalienable right to write whatever the hell he wants (i.e. freedom of expression) is curtailed by his ex’s inalienable right to live her life without being pilloried, threatened, and harassed by Eron’s internet friends.

To conclude; I believe it’s probably true Zoe Quinn filed a restraining order against Gjoni. It would explain why she did not comment on the earlier inquiries I made regarding this matter (the gag clause works both ways, yo) and is supported by the fact that Eron really can’t seem to shut up about her.

If Eron Gjoni was as over Quinn as he pretends to be, he wouldn’t need $1800 to fight a restraining order she filed against him. He wouldn’t correct every person on Twitter who assumes Quinn left the relationship instead of himself, wouldn’t state (over and over again) that Quinn said she loved him first. These are the kinds of things someone says when they’re still hurt over their ex hurting them.

Here’s why I think Eron can’t let this go. Quinn’s made him internet famous for being (in his own words)  “a devilishly attractive beta cuck.” He has hundreds of fans from #gamergate, although Eron’s only meaningful connection to the gaming industry was the one he had with Quinn. If he was forced to stop talking about her he would have little to share with #gamergate’s stated mission; and would attain the status of a dried-up lolcow. I think he keeps stirring the pot on this issue so that his newfound “fans” won’t lose interest in him.

The irony is that Eron’s problems would go away if he could just let this all go. It’s apparent in this little tete-a-tete I noticed today on Twitter:

yo eron, here’s a crazy idea w/r/t your legal woes: how about you shut the fuck up and go away for awhile

Eron’s reply: “Nah.”