Intellectual Dark Web leaders Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin have announced they are forming an alternative to Patreon, citing what they view as active censorship of politically conservative voices on the crowdfunding site.
The site has terms of service similar to Twitter’s, but has banned prominent members who have not directly violated the terms so much as violated boundaries of political ideology. That Peterson, who recently published a best-selling book, “12 Rules for Life,” and Rubin, who features interviews and debates on the “Rubin Report,” felt compelled to start up a brand new version of this site speaks to how severely the push to rid online spaces of right-leaning voices is being viewed. Both are high-ranking Patreon personalities.
The atheist intellectual Sam Harris is one of Patreon’s top-earning users, and he has also abandoned the platform over this incident. Since all three make tens of thousands of dollars a month through the website, this decision is likely to cost them a large portion of their incomes.
— Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) December 17, 2018
Here’s What Happened
Rubin said they decided to start a new platform because Patreon banned a user this month over the content of a YouTube video that had nothing to do with the platform. In the video, he used the n-word and a number of other expletives to voice his frustration with members of the alt-right. In the joint video announcement of their new venture, Rubin and Peterson criticized the platform’s decision to boot the user, Carl Benjamin, without any recourse or semblance of due process.
— Yoram Hazony (@yhazony) December 17, 2018
The banning of Carl [Sargon of Aarkad] for doing something that was not on the Patreon platform that wasn’t even done on his channel, because of a word he said … is a massive move of that line of what’s acceptable … the fact that this guy got booted with no chance of recourse, with no warning, just like that, is just an extension of everything else we have been talking about.
Peterson chimed in and explained further:
I’ve been working on a system for months to allow authors and other people who engage publicly on intellectual issues to interact more effectively with their readers, viewers, and listeners. It occurred to me this week that could serve this function. We are going to try to set this system up on a subscriber model that is analogous to Patreon. It will have a bunch of additional features. I don’t want to over-promise because the system is new. But we’re going to try to get that rolled out as fast as we can. We have a number of people who are interested in moving their subscription over.
After seeing folks like Peterson and Rubin call for a boycott of Patreon for banning Benjamin, Patreon published the transcript of the video, and said its content constitutes hate speech against people based on their race and sexual orientation, which is a violation of the platform’s terms. Here’s the transcript:
I just can’t be bothered with people who chose to treat me like this. It’s really annoying. Like, I — . You’re acting like a bunch of n—–s, just so you know. You act like white n—–s. Exactly how you describe black people acting is the impression I get dealing with the Alt Right … Look, you carry on, but don’t expect me to then have a debate with one of your f—–s. … Like why would I bother? … Maybe you’re just acting like a n—-r, mate? Have you considered that? Do you think white people act like this? White people are meant to be polite and respectful to one another, and you guys can’t even act like white people, it’s really amazing to me.
While this language violates Patreon’s terms, the language wasn’t used on its platform. Additionally, some others on Patreon’s platform have been allowed to remain, despite apparently violating the terms of service on the site in exactly the same way.
Some of these can be found with a simple search: One Patreon member, Race Wars Podcast, has a post up called “Run N—a Outta Town.” This woman promotes an adult game called “HoeRizon,” and the “idea is to make a post-apocalyptic, open-world action RPG with a sexual twist.” Last year, nearly 40,000 people petitioned Patreon to ban members who were featuring an animation of child rape. This guy’s bizarre religious rants with racist slants have been banned from YouTube, but not from Patreon. This woman brags she’s creating controversy and has a post up called “White Allies Are Poison.”
The Bans Are Real And Growing
It’s likely the Intellectual Dark Web response was heightened by the fact that, after he was kicked off Patreon, Benjamin went to a competing website called SubscribeStar. Then PayPal refused to process payments for SubscribeStar, effectively tanking that website over being willing to host a person blacklisted by leftist activists. “That puts SubscribeStar in the same spot as other crowdfunding sites that have courted the extreme right, only to be banned from the major financial tech platforms,” explains The Daily Beast. “Over the weekend, SubscribeStar stopped accepting new members.”
While Patreon clearly has been cleaning house the last few weeks, and even the last year by banning people creating all kinds of bizarre content, many creators with questionable, if not obviously out of bounds, content remain. It’s clear Patreon creators are targeting the enforcement of their policies based on politically motivated mob demands. They will let the internet mob-destroy a person’s income if they don’t like the person’s political ideology.
In the last two years, Patreon banned a few notable people making money via an interest in politics. One of those people was Lauren Southern, an independent reporter, although the backlash from that ban died down relatively quickly. In an e-mail to Southern from Patreon’s “Trust and Safety” team, they informed her, “It appears that you are currently raising funds in order to take part in activities that are likely to cause loss of life.”
Southern says she was banned due to her coverage of the Identitarian Movement, a pan-European uprising of far-right activists trying to stop the flow of foreign migrants entering Europe. She had been embedded with Defend Europe, an Identitarian group sailing the Mediterranean trying to document the relationship between human traffickers and governments during the migration of refugees into Europe last year. She claimed she was banned because an organization called “HOPE Not Hate” lobbied Patreon to do so.
Patreon Provides Independent Creators a Source of Income
Patreon, for those unfamiliar, was founded in 2013. The site bills itself as an online membership platform that provides a business model and tools for creators to run a subscription content service to subscribers, or “patrons,” hence the name. All manner of people and content exist on Patreon, from singer-songwriters and comic illustrators to novelists and folks who show off pictures of their animal friends (no, really).
Patreon is different from social media sites likes Twitter and Facebook because of the explicit business angle which is also why folks love it. Here is how it works. Take Ross Tran, who creates illustrations and YouTube videos. For a $1 per month subscription to his site, patrons receive a video illustration. For $10 per month, they receive a package that includes one of his tutorials regarding illustrations, a video demo, and a few more things. For $100 per month, subscribers receive more personalized products, perhaps a T-shirt or sketch, a 20 percent discount to his online shop, and a few other items. He currently has 1,143 subscribers. This is just one of thousands of examples.
For more perspective, this is a list of Patreon’s highest earners, how much they offer their subscribers, and how much they earn monthly. One site, called “Hoodied,” earns $825 per month creating a hoodie each month for its subscribers. Not bad for what is likely a side gig! One couple makes more than $3,000 per month documenting their travel and yoga endeavors (must be nice). You can see how people are earning money. The financial angle to Patreon is an important part of why people are so frustrated over the company’s censorship — and part of why Peterson and Rubin have decided to formulate a new system.
In his YouTube address, Peterson asked observers to be patient, though he hopes to get “something up” before Christmas. “I don’t want people to think we are taking this lightly or lying down,” he said.