Callie Wright of The Gaytheist Manifesto released an extra edition of the podcast this week. In it, she speaks with the organizers of Mythicist Milwaukee’s conference being held this weekend about their decision to invite YouTube anti-feminist (anti-Sarkeesian, Gamergater) “Sargon of Akkad” (Carl Benjamin) to speak at their conference.
It’s not a friendly interview. Callie challenges them on nearly everything they have to say. In response, they say…anything, really. They brought him in as an entertainer. They want to settle the record on him. These are conversations already being had, so why not on their stage. People are bored with atheism. We don’t know what’s in his heart. He’s not really as bad as people say. He does a bunch of dry stuff talking about political philosophy.
This seems to be the most straightforward statement of their position:
He has a huge platform. He’s wildly successful in his own right. Why not Sargon? I understand what you’re saying about Twitter and all these other things, but guess what. There’s been entertainers that troll each other all the time. That’s just the way the world goes.
Also known as, we don’t really care what he did.
Callie did a great job pointing out false equivalencies and attempts to stray from the topic. There are a few things I want to add, though.
I don’t think we have the authority to police what happens everywhere.
Nobody is asking them to police things that happen elsewhere. People are pointing out that history is a pretty good indication of future behavior. If you don’t want harassment at your event, it makes very little sense to invite someone with a history of inciting harassment. I’ve run conferences. I ran one where someone’s stalker showed up. We didn’t say, “Oh, but he hasn’t stalked you here yet.” We dealt with the problem in the way we thought would best keep the stalkee and our other attendees safe.
What other conference has been talked about this much?
The Amazing Meeting. TAM was talked about rather a lot for how they handled attendee safety, and their attendance declined as a result. Then it came out that organizers knew Michael Shermer had been accused of raping a volunteer at one of their conferences, and TAM died. Not all publicity is good publicity. Also, if your purpose as a conference is merely to be big, stop.
The more you talk online, the more likely it is you’re going to say something childish and foolish, something you didn’t mean to.
I’ve never told someone I wouldn’t even rape them. That isn’t a thing children say. It’s a political tactic to shut down certain positions, as the organizers themselves admit later when they say they don’t know the positions of the MP involved. And if someone says something that uses the threat of rape for political purposes, the vast, overwhelming majority of us would not turn around and put that person onstage.
Regarding the conference organizers being harassed, it’s possible. That isn’t what they’re describing in the podcast, though. If you want me to believe you’ve been harassed, you need to not tell me inciting harassment is just like doing bad standup. You also need to accurately represent the calls to your venue saying your “entertainers” make their living inciting harassment, instead of calling them threats. Additionally, being called a “rape apologist” because you’re equating inciting rape threats with comedy pieces that don’t go well is not harassment.
Sargon/Carl did apologize to Laci Green at VidCon. He also rounded up a large crew of people to attend a panel Anita Sarkeesian was on. VidCon organizers issued an apology for that.
This year, we had a contingent of attendees (some who paid, some who snuck in with fake passes) who had been either perpetrators of this harassment, or had, for years, watched as the outrage they cultivated resulted in followers doxxing, harassing, intimidating, and even threatening the lives of the creators on these panels.
It is difficult to imagine that this group of people (who are aware that their channels have been base-camps for years of harassment of some of our panelists) did not realize that their arriving early to fill up the three front rows of a panel was going to be intimidating. In any case, it looked like intentional intimidation to most people in attendance, and the panelists were understandably on edge throughout the discussion.
If Mythicist Milwaukee organizers are aware of the first, they should be aware of the second. They didn’t mention it.
Long story short, this interview demonstrates the complete lack of a consistent rationale behind inviting Sargon/Carl beyond selling tickets. Listen to the interview if you were in any doubt.