Keeping track of bad actors in new "media"

Here we are in 2019 and the Fighting Game Community is finally, finally, having what is a promising start to a mini #metoo movement. It started in late July with a community twitter campaign to “#CleanTheFGC” of racists and, eventually, other forms of hate and harassment and, since EVO two weeks ago, we have had several cases of physical and/or sexual assault put in the spotlight. Some recent, some old, all serious.

Do you know who they are? Do you know the people who came forward with their stories? Do you know what each of their cases are? What about the incidents happening 3 months ago? 3 years? Like, who is Noel Brown and what did he do?

Okay, maybe you don’t care about the FGC. Maybe Overwatch League? Magic the Gathering? League of Legends players? Or how about Twitch streamers in general? Or Youtubers?

I’m not talking about Pewdiepie or Jontron here. If you’re that big, you 're big enough to have your own Wikipedia pages like actors/comedians/athletes/singers/et cetera that chronicle at least the basics of what racist outbursts you’ve had. Sure, you’re not actually going to be accountable for your actions because our global society fucking sucks (look at all those actors getting work again after they took “time away” from the spotlight!!), but at least I can go there and be like “well, they’re a shit, guess it’s time to not consume anything they’re in.”

I’m talking about everything outside of that. The medium to even “big” people in the smaller corner of “media” you care about, whether it be eSports or streaming or youtube or whatever. Because currently, when you go to cheer on your favourite player or stumble upon a cool history series randomly, it’s not an easy process to find out if that player had been convicted of assault against his wife or the writer of that history series is a sexual harasser.

And currently, if you aren’t wanting that shit to sneak up on you, you have to do that homework. Search their twitter for any slurs or even just hints that they’re a piece of shit. Search their fanbase and see what is tolerated and who is not. Because we’ve all seen our youtube recommendations and that committing actual crimes won’t prevent you from getting your twitch account back, so it’s up to the individual to put in the work.

And its got me fucking tired.

And, no, don’t misunderstand me that I want the outing of the pieces of shit to stop. Far from it. If I had my way, the companies and communities around those people would kick them out for good long ago.

But I’m not, at the same time, someone who believes that people should be cancelled completely and beyond redemption. If strides are made by the harasser to change their ways and both the victims and the greater community feel it is appropriate to have them back, then that’s fair. I’ve never been a fan of Aris Bakhtanians and I still believe he should have been kicked out of the FGC back in 2012, but given that in 2019 he has changed as a person, taken responsibility for what he did, and his victims (in this incident at least) are the people who will defend and vouch for him the most, I’m fine with him being in it in 2019 (even if I think he’s a terrible commentator).

I just want to figure out if there is a better way for people to protect themselves and others from falling into the trap of finding out, after watching 20 hours into a let’s play, that the person you’ve been watching is a massive transphobe.

Do we, as people, need some sort of well regulated wiki or database keeping track of all this stuff, even if it just is bullet points and links to the story themselves? Or is that too Orwellian? Is it just an inherent risk of investing ourselves in smaller streams and communities that don’t have the backbone to moderate their own?

Or is there another solution out there that I can’t see?

When I first started going to FGC events in other cities and started running tournaments, I got warned about one player in particular, both by local and regional players. I banned him right away (explicitly in the rules of my tournaments was that he was banned), but without that knowledge, who knows how long it would have taken me to know how poisonous he was? And who would have been hurt along the way?

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I think it really does need to start at the interpersonal level - especially when it comes to games media people and content-creators who have literal days worth of themselves online for people to see. Proactivity on the part of people who know. For instance, I follow people who make it their business to comment on transphobia in popular media because I’m woefully under-read in that area, i.e. recently this involved a transphobic bar in a Tierra Whack song. When you hear or see a friend engaging with a person who is a problem, let them know. It makes you feel like the most boring and annoying person in the room, but people who value the same things as you tend to appreciate the heads-up.

Whisper networks are this stuff has to start, I just think they should reach wider audiences faster than they currently do.

EDIT: As much as big ole database of “Who’s Who: Problematic Edition” would be pretty useful for plenty of people, it does get pretty Orwellian depending on who’s in charge of curating it. Given that we’re discovering bad actors within the left on a weekly basis, I’d hate to imagine what would have if one of them was the webmaster of such a resource.

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It’s a real anxiety I’ve experienced consuming or participating in any sort of relatively new media or community as celebrities, online or not, and their enablers have been exposed in fuckups or accounts from their victims.

It’s a lot of personal labour to research bad actors involved in the media you’re consuming, and often times the information isn’t there until it is, if I was just watching Evo 2019 live I would have no idea had I not been informed inexplicably from a couple of tweets appearing on my TL, and the following stories coming out after the fact.

It makes it hard to jump in and enjoy anything unless there’s some amount of trust or certainty that you’re not giving money to terrible people or corporations, but idk what the solution could be. I think there certainly needs to be more reporting that reaches a wider audience, at least Waypoint and associated reporters have helped a lot for me personally in being more informed.

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I think it’s important to sparse out your lines. For example, I watch sfdebris, despite his inability to engage with politics without instantly tripping over himself and hiding behind all to familiar irony humor. He does seem to be making improvements has time has gone on, mainly in cleaning his language, and does try to maturely discuss issues of gender, race, and sexuality whenever it comes up. He said the R-word a lot a few years ago, but he’s fine now.

He’s not causing harm to anyone or supporting any sort of actively destructive movement or anything like that.

Now, someone who is now forever on my ignore list is Brad Jones, aka The Cinema Snob. I won’t go too far into things (just look up the change the channel doc if you’re in the dark), but Channel Awesome had a massive exodus not too long ago due to now public and collected allegations of abusive management. Only two people who weren’t regular staff on The Nostalgia Critic stayed on - one was Guru Larry, who stuck around solely to troll management, and the other was Brad Jones. He stayed mostly quiet about why he stayed, and while most people didn’t agree with it, they respected his choice. At least, that’s what it seemed like at first.

Brad started speaking out that some ex-CA fans were harassing him personally via unsolicited phone calls, which you could see happening, but it was around this time that I started to notice that a lot of regular faces on his shows just stopped showing up, and he wasn’t listed in friendly channels anymore (he’s done multiple crossovers with Phelous over the years, one just a bit over a year ago, and he seems to have been removed from Phelous’ list of affiliated channels).

Then someone caught him leaving a comment on one of his videos making a cheeky obvious lie about some of the people abused most by CA management cheering for a non-existent SWATing done to him he has no proof of ever happening in some hidden chat server and, of course, that comment was deleted.

To say a lot of his fans were upset was an understatement, and it was here when I started discovering this behavior had been going on for months.

Wanting to stay with a morally questionable company due to a friendship with one of its main talents is one thing, actively spreading lies about his former friends is another.

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The idea of a database, I feel, is good in theory but would be too easily manipulated in practice.
[CW: Gun violence]

When the Dayton shooting happened recently, I was looking at Twitter a lot for information on the situation because I grew up very nearby and many of my friends still lived in the area. I saw a number of tweets falsely claiming the shooter was a gaming YouTuber, based outside of the US. Those tweets had a not insignificant number of retweets/comments seeming to believe the statements as true. They’ve since been deleted, but the fact that kind of targeting could happen to such a small personality makes me weary of trusting a crowd-sourced platform for this kind of thing. It’s a pretty particular example but it kind of shook me because I even bought into it for a bit before doing a little bit of outside research.

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I remember when the Vic allegations came out in mass alongside an anitwitter personality getting outed for stalking resulted in someone trying to make a spreadsheet with info on abusers in anime fandom circles.

It took a few days for a stalker to put an innocent man on that list who had to publicly explain the situation with other witnesses.

I also agree a database is probably the wrong way to go about things because of stuff like this. You really need someone doing a lot of checking with verifiable information for this to work, and a problem we tend to encounter with a lot of scum in smaller communities and new media is that many are good at blending in or hiding their actions. This means you could feasibly game such a database to frame innocent people if you have even scraps of stuff that could be taken out of context or overblown.

It’s easier to accept because finding hard evidence against serial harassers is an extremely difficult task most of the time beyond rumors of bad conduct.

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Yeah no I would strongly suggest not doing this. That is an extremely slippery and abusable slope.

I do not really want to get into a discussion on how such lists can be weaponized and turned on the people originally meant to be protected by them. We live in an age now where you have to scrutinize every bit of information to make sure it’s factual. Imagine trying to regulate a random group of people to run a list of what is essentially a blacklist for individuals on the internet.

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Also no joke but people can improve. Sometimes an awful person can turn their life around, and I genuinely feel something like a Problematique Listicle would just be the worst possible thing. If I found myself on such a list and thus was written off as a human being forever and ever after, what is the impetus to learn from mistakes and grow?

I have, frankly, watched too many people I now respect rise up from being mediocre or even shitty people. And callout/cancel culture just makes that process harder. We need people to think more critically and to weigh for themselves how to react to people with checkered pasts. It’s okay to look at someone’s past actions and go “I don’t want to engage with this.” It’s also okay to go “I see this but I think this person is on the right path/I can separate the Artist From The Art” etc.

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I think a better option would be to share the hell out of good creators. A year ago I had basically given up on YouTube content outside of Monster Factory and Big Boy Season.

However, Polygon shared an article that was “The Best Video Essays of 2018,” which included Shaun’s “The Fake Doom Outrage” and Innuendo Studio’s “Lady Eboshi is Wrong” videos. While they are also great, they led me to Lindsay Ellis, Contrapoints, Hbomberguy, and honestly so many more good people on YouTube. Rather than stumble into someone and finding out they were bad, I looked for who they referenced and found more channels. I support some of them on patreon and try to share with my friends.

Of course it’s ok to warn people when they get into a questionable creator, but I think it’s better to share the good stuff.

It’s also a situation where I’m not going to play Red Dead 2, but if people want to it’s fine. I’m not going to put RDR2/Cyberpunk 2077 on an official “avoid this game because it’s problematic” list. I’d rather support better games and studios with my time and money.

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Uh, don’t bring her up around trans lesbians.

She has said a lot of things several segments of the trans community find problematic, especially with trans lesbians (like directly insulting them on twitter after they criticized a video idea she had about slurs, though she did delete that tweet and apologized).

This is also the other inevitable problem: Celebrating good creators as your main thing can often create the same phenomenon at a different angle. It means you grow fandoms, and that tends to cause people to react harshly towards any criticism thrown at the person they’re fans of.

(CW: Sexual assault)

This mindset is what leads to stuff like Christine Love including an extremely ill-advised heterosexual sexual assault scene in her explicit lesbian visual novel Ladykiller in a Bind, and a subset of people putting down any and all critics of the decision (god that fish wrap opinion piece Polygon published about letting queer people tell their stories that refuses to actually say what everyone took offense to or that most of the critics were other queer people).

I’ve found the best solution is to spotlight less well known talent as you find it and recommend other talent with disclaimers if there’s anything about their work you feel may be an issue with others not with your same viewpoints (thus why there’s a bunch of talented video producers I follow and watch I would never celebrate as one of the “good” ones for one reason or another).

Nobody is ever going to be perfect, and this celebrating good creator mindset doesn’t so much as combat cancel culture as become another facet of it if all you’re doing is being positive over your view of a creator and not properly critical. It paints a picture someone can’t hope to live up to, and backlash tends to follow.

Sorry if this reads as aggressive or rambling. I’ve been thinking on this stuff a lot and I’m trying to sparse it out in a way that makes sense. Bleh. @_@

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It’s definitely not aggressive! And I think you bringing up criticisms on contrapoints shows that we can’t label certain creators as “good” because everyone messes up. I named bigger names here as some that are generally positive creators, but that have led me to smaller ones.

That’s why I think we can and should promote creators that we like and enjoy, while not placing them on a pedestal. Does that make sense?

Again, I’m here to learn and grow like a lot of other people, and I’m happy to have my ideas challenged. We’re all working towards similar goals here.

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