On New Year’s Day, pundit Dave Rubin and psychologist Jordan Peterson announced they would be leaving the crowd-funding site Patreon over concerns about free speech. Both Rubin and Peterson say they have been thinking about leaving for some time. The last straw seems to have been the site’s decision to remove the account of British YouTuber Carl Benjamin who creates content under the name Sargon of Akkad. Rubin and Peterson now say they are considering creating an alternative to Patreon which would be more respectful of creator’s free speech.
If you’re not familiar with Patreon, it’s a site that allows people to pledge one-time or recurring financial support to individuals who have set up accounts on the site. Several members of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web have accounts and have been using the money they raised their to fund their activities. Peterson, until yesterday, was one of the site’s top earners. Peterson and Rubin are not the first members of the IDW to abandon the site. About two weeks ago, author Sam Harris deleted his account and accused the site of “political bias.” Harris announced his departure on Twitter:
— Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) December 17, 2018
The NY Times published a story on Christmas Eve about the decision to remove Benjamin’s account and the blowback to that decision. It’s worth noting that the author of this piece is the same person who wrote a truly awful and dishonest hit piece on Jordan Peterson earlier this year:
Jaqueline Hart, Patreon’s head of trust and safety, said her team watches for and will investigate complaints about any content posted on Patreon and on other sites like YouTube and Facebook that violates what it defines as hate speech. That includes “serious attacks, or even negative generalizations, of people based on their race [and] sexual orientation,” she has said…
This month, the site’s moderators received a complaint about Mr. Benjamin, who had risen to fame railing against diversity and feminism during the GamerGate movement in 2014. Mr. Benjamin used the N-word and anti-gay language during an interview posted to YouTube on Feb. 7, Patreon found.
On Dec. 6, the company told Mr. Benjamin that it would freeze his account and that he could appeal. Mr. Benjamin objected and said the video in question should not fall under Patreon’s rules because it was on YouTube…
“His response to us when we told him about the reform process was to nitpick and say, ‘I was being anti-Nazi,’” Ms. Hart said. “You cannot say those words on our platform. It doesn’t matter who you’re directing them at.”
In a blog post about the decision, Hart wrote this:
We understand some people don’t believe in the concept of hate speech and don’t agree with Patreon removing creators on the grounds of violating our Community Guidelines for using hate speech. We have a different view. Patreon does not and will not condone hate speech in any of its forms. We stand by our policies against hate speech. We believe it’s essential for Patreon to have strong policies against hate speech to build a safe community for our creators and their patrons.
In short, Patreon is choosing to monitor the speech of any creators funded by its site and will apply its own standards to regulate that speech even though the speech isn’t being published or hosted at Patreon. It should go without saying that Patreon, as a private company, is free to do so. But in the video below, Peterson suggests the move to oust libertarian and right-leaning speakers is being driven by a left-wing group called Change the Terms. I’d never heard of the group before but it’s a coalition of groups that will be familiar to most Hot Air readers: “The Change the Terms policies were drafted by the Center for American Progress, Color of Change, Free Press, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.” The site seems to take particular aim at Patreon:
…while an online payment processor may not be the vehicle through which a group directly engages in hateful activities, the online payment processor should not knowingly allow the group to use its services to fund hateful activities. Not denying services under this example would mean that the online payment processor is financially profiting from hateful activities.
So the bottom line is that very well-funded left-wing groups are pushing to “no-platform” hate. In practice, that looks a lot like going after anyone on the right who has a different opinion. Put another way, if the Southern Poverty Law Center is now in charge of defining hate speech online, you can bet a lot of people who aren’t remotely white supremacists are going to be swept up in the dragnet as well. In June the SPLC made a $3.3 million settlement with Maajid Nawaz over his inclusion in its “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.” Other groups targed by the SPLC have said they are considering lawsuits as well.
Rubin and Peterson think that this is a very big problem. Rubin mentions Maajid Nawaz as an example, along with Ayaan Hirsi Ali and others. But Peterson suggests the next step in this battle could be to approach credit card companies with the same pitch, i.e. why are you profiting from hate? In fact, another article in the NY Times, also published on Christmas Eve, argues that credit card companies should be monitoring their customers to prevent mass shootings:
Mass shootings routinely set off a national debate on guns, usually focused on regulating firearms and on troubled youths. Little attention is paid to the financial industry that has become an instrumental, if unwitting, enabler of carnage…
Banks and credit-card networks say it is not their responsibility to create systems to track gun purchases that would allow them to report suspicious patterns.
“We do not believe Visa should be in the position of setting restrictions on the sale of lawful goods or services,” said Amanda Pires, a Visa spokeswoman. “Our role in commerce is to efficiently process, protect and settle all legal payments. Asking Visa or other payment networks to arbitrate what legal goods can be purchased sets a dangerous precedent.”
A spokesman for Mastercard echoed that sentiment, emphasizing its protection of “cardholders’ independence” and the “privacy of their own purchasing decisions.”
But the financial industry is uniquely positioned to see, if it chose to do so, a potential killer’s behavior in a way that retailers, law enforcement officials, concerned family members or mental health professionals cannot.
Of course, the only way to identify potential killers is to monitor everyone and cast suspicion on anyone who buys a bunch of guns, something that is perfectly legal. And yes, I know credit card companies already monitor our spending to prevent fraud but this is different. This is monitoring with the goal of turning people’s legal spending decisions over to law enforcement for investigation. The goal isn’t to protect the consumer/card user but to view the consumer as a potential terrorist. So far, the credit card companies are holding the line but it does make you wonder where this will go in the next decade. How long before the left is proposing a social credit score like the one being instituted in China? As Rubin says at one point (loosely quoting Eric Weinstein) you can reduce this outlook to its ultimate end (and ridicule its absurdity) with this question, “Should Republicans be allowed to use roads?”