Updated December 14, 2018. 11:20 pm EST
In a new post on Patreon today, Jordan Peterson has articulated his position on Patreon’s deplatforming of controversial YouTube personality Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad. In the post, Peterson states: “I am an admirer of Sargon, and he was a great friend of mine when I was in deep trouble two years ago. I think there is no excuse for deplatforming him (particularly when his fundamental crime was defending himself against neo-Nazis).”
Benjamin was booted from Patreon after a video surfaced of him deriding Neo-Nazis by using a racist term in an ironic way. Whatever you may think of Benjamin’s language in the video, it was not in violation of Patreon’s policies. Benjamin was well within his right to express himself, and the fact that he was deplatformed for exercising free speech as opposed to committing some kind of harmful action is problematic to say the least.
This tweet from YouTuber and writer Benjamin Boyce sums up exactly why what happened to Benjamin matters to other creators and consumers:
— Benjamin Boyce (@BenjaminABoyce) December 10, 2018
It’s always the little guy who gets screwed over the most when corporations like Patreon decide to play to the woke peanut gallery.
Patreon CEO Jack Conte went on the popular YouTube show The Rubin Report last year to assure creators that they could trust him to not punish people for their speech. In this appearance, Conte successfully convinced creators that Patreon would not cave to ideological pressure and would defend free speech. Most remained convinced until “The Sargon Incident.”
Many creators and patrons have since expressed frustration and disappointment in the platform. They see the banning of Benjamin as a betrayal. Indeed, many have already abandoned Patreon for SubscribeStar, an alternative crowdfunding platform. It appears that Patreon may be bleeding revenue as it loses support from users and creators. Peterson’s recent statement has amplified the sentiment of these disaffected people. Now the ball is in Jack Conte’s court. Some still believe that Patreon can fix the problem.
One very recent and fascinating thread on Twitter by freelance journalist Nick Monroe has already pointed out what appears to be a gaggle of activist spin doctors to undermine SubscribeStar’s reputation:
THERE IS ALREADY BOYCOTT EFFORTS FOR SUBSCRIBESTAR STARTING.
I came across some shmuck named Tim Squirrell feeding Will Sommer and Jared Holt information to use in whatever smear campaign they’ve got cooking up.
Tim has also CCed the Sleeping Giants so they can boycott it. pic.twitter.com/bJyCUX6sin
— St. Nick Monroe (@nickmon1112) December 14, 2018
Within hours, the predictable happened. SubscribeStar is now temporarily shut down. SubscribeStar reached out to me via Twitter to provide context: “while some of our operations are paused/restricted by PayPal and Stripe, we are not shutting down the service, nor we’re planning on doing so. We are implementing other means for subscribers to support their Stars and for Stars—to get paid.”
Peterson’s take on the issue is of particular interest because he is the quite possibly the most popular figure in the so-called “Intellectual Dark Web” (IDW). Indeed, his monthly support numbers on Patreon are astronomical. He has also been a vocal opponent of compelled speech laws and an unwavering champion of freedom of expression.
In his post today, Peterson went on to assure his supporters and well wishers that he is looking for a solution to the fallout from this new crowdfunding controversy: “I have been talking continually with the majority of members of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web, and we are determining what steps to take … Dave Rubin and I (and others) have been discussing the establishment of a Patreon-like enterprise that will not be susceptible to arbitrary censorship, and we are making progress, but these things cannot be rushed without the possibility of excess error.”
He continued: “I remain deeply grateful for your support and committed to ensure that the money you pledge will be devoted to the highest cause possible and that none of this is being treated with casual disregard.”
Liberals, centrists and conservatives have come to trust Peterson for his consistency during the particularly gruelling culture wars of the late 2010s. In 2018, you can often tell just how effective a voice is by how many people target the speaker with defamation and hit pieces. You see, the more mainstream platforms try to smear popular figures like PewDiePie, Jordan Peterson and liberal feminist Laci Green with labels like “alt right,” the more you can be sure that these people are making meaningful connections and resonating with everyday people.
On this issue, it is encouraging to see Peterson express his support for Benjamin and his disappointment in Patreon. It’s a dangerous time for freedom of expression. The ability to make a living while expressing heterodox views is under attack. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Patreon have all made recent efforts to “sanitize” their platforms in the name of social justice. Peterson’s statement today provides some hope for the future of freedom of expression on the internet. I hope it leads to real, effective action. This may be an opportunity to break up the monopolies of social media and put an end to their control over cultural capital and their ability to erase people.