If you care about free speech and intellectual diversity but have not been following the Patreon controversy, you may want to start paying attention to it. This could be a turning point in the war for free speech against the social media cabal.
And the strange thing is, most of the people who are fighting the hardest for conservatives are anything but conservative.
Several popular creators (most of whom describe themselves as liberal) with large Patreon subscriber bases are leaving the platform to start their own because Patreon has de-platformed some of its creators as a result of things they said on other platforms. For reasons that include both concerns for their own continued livelihood, as well as solidarity with and fidelity to the principles of free speech, members of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web (Joe Rogan, Sam Harris, Dave Rubin, Jordan Peterson, the Weinstein brothers, and others), are ditching their lucrative Patreon accounts.
Throughout this article, I use the term “free speech.” This is not a reference to our Constitutional right. It’s a reference to our culture’s intolerance of its exercise.
If you’re not familiar with it, “Patreon is a membership platform that makes it easy for artists and creators to get paid.” It began as a platform for singers and artists to easily publish their work and get paid by their fan base. The platform exploded in popularity with the advent of podcasting. Like all social media platforms, their terms of service allow them to de-monetize and/or remove any members guilty of “hate speech,” which is defined, in part, by Patreon to include behavior such as “negative generalizations” or “negative depictions of a protected class.”
However, unlike other social media platforms, Patreon has taken an extraordinary and unprecedented step by de-platforming one of its members (Carl Benjamin a.k.a. Sargon of Akkad) without warning or even notification for using so-called “hate speech” during an interview on someone else’s YouTube channel. The alleged offending words were not even used on the Patreon platform.
Their action has resulted in a significant exodus of subscribers in protest. Patreon has decided that the best course of action is to pour 55-gallon drums of gasoline on the fire. They’ve doubled down and even invented new, absurd phrases like “manifest observable behavior,” making it clear that their terms of service are subjective, arbitrary, capricious, undefinable, and non-negotiable.
This is merely the latest and most grotesque example of what Eric Weinstein calls “Tech McCarthyism.”
TechCarthyism, n.: A movement using mainstream tech-platforms to socially engineer thought-level compliance to a radical political agenda through Star Chambers (e.g. "Trust and Safety"), Shadowbans, Show-Trials (court of public opinion), Deplatforming & Uneven Enforcement of ToS.
— Eric Weinstein (@EricRWeinstein) December 19, 2018
The following transcript between Patreon creator Matt Christiansen and Patreon’s “Trust & Safety Committee” leader provides a detailed and blood-chilling view into the company’s point of view:
Here is Matt Christiansen summarizing his conversation.
Incensed by this overreach and thought-policing, thousands of Patreon subscribers canceled their subscriptions in protest. Ironically, this led to significant revenue loss for several field generals in the war of free speech like Sam Harris, Dave Rubin, and Jordan Peterson.
Rather than bend a knee to their overlords in an attempt to secure their livelihood, these thought leaders are joining the protest. The exodus began with this announcement from Harris:
— Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) December 17, 2018
Subsequently and notably, Rubin and Peterson announced their intention to launch a competitor:
This is significant. Conservatives have been complaining about the censorship by the like of Google, Facebook, and Twitter for years now. But creating new social media platforms is no easy task. In fact, it’s quite unlikely ever to happen. The only way to fix this problem is through a cultural shift away from mental bubble wrap that makes uncomfortable conversations cool again.
That’s why this project from Rubin and Peterson is so important. It could be the first battle won by free speech partisans in quite some time. Whether or not it turns the tide of the overall war will depend on many more battles.