The damage resulting from Patreon’s ill-advised venture into censorship continues with the departure of both content creators and their patrons.
Among many others, two of Patreon’s largest subscribers not only announced their departure but that they also intend to construct a crowd-funding source that they hope will insulate content creators from the whims of Patreon’s and other exchanges’ staff’s political or personal ideals. Many regard their departure not just in terms of protests in the name of free speech, but as sound financial stewardship to protect their own livelihood from a possibly unreliable payment and revenue source.
Yesterday brought us in my view a greatly significant event–the Ebril, Iraq book launch of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, translated into the Kurdish Language.
The book was formerly banned under the Saddam Hussein regime; rather obviously for its negative portrayal of how a dictatorship can emerge in a nation or community. Coupled with the dark history that for decades nations such as Turkey proscribed the Kurdish language, the fact that such a work can be sold publicly shows the remarkable transformation that has taken place in the former dictatorship.
As part of a series of articles regarding censorship by the crowd-funding service Patreon, I now pose the question of whether Patreon, as based upon its current actions and policy, would censor and ban great historical figures such as Aristotle, Jacob Riis, and numerous other contributors to the betterment of the human condition. The men and women of those times certainly did not subscribe to the ideas of 21st century political correctness and were the products of their own times, but since Patreon through its actions seems to conflate the idea of these people as a brand, where an arbitrary set of ideas about the author dictates the value of the content of their ideas or speech. It seems most likely these figures would not have been granted a voice had Patreon been the gatekeeper to their ideas.
What contributions to history might have been lost had the mindset such as that engendered today by Patreon prevailed?
As part of a series of articles to be published on how I believe the crowd-funding source Patreon and its current practices represent a threat to free speech we look at insights reported by several current and former patrons and content creators. The conclusion I cannot help but arrive at is that the individual, as evidenced by Patreon’s words, represents a “brand” where choices made outside the scope of content posted to Patreon can be used against the user, resulting in their livelihood earned from income being revoked without notice. In other words, if the company does not like you as a person, they can remove your income. The restraint of this form of “depersoning” is just another example of how Americans are steadily losing their hard-won free speech rights.
What began as a laudable business model to fund individual content creators such as writers, bloggers, vloggers, and artists–providing many now with generous incomes aggregated from their subscribers–has devolved into heavy-handed practices antithetical to the basic tenets of Free Speech, small business, and the spirit of Self-Employment and Self-Sufficiency. The platform exercises the worst kind of censorship, cutting off the incomes of individuals and their families for often arbitrary accusations of unacceptable speech off-platform or for association with those Patreon finds objectionable.
This censorship is not just for content hosted by Patreon, as many former subscribers to their service report that they are forced to walk a fine line in their own personal lives for fear that Patreon’s “Trust and Safety” team will take away their patrons and lifestyle for engaging in wrong-think or speech.
I have previously written about the increasing state and federal efforts to impose bans on contractors and employees who refuse to sign agreements not to boycott Israeli products. The agreements raise serious free speech concerns under the First Amendment and contravene a host of constitutional rights from speech to religion to association. Now a speech pathologist in Texas is suing after she was barred from employment with the school district after nine years of work with developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school students in Austin, Texas. The lawsuit on her behalf was filed in the Western District of Texas is the latest federal challenge to these laws.
For an authoritarian leader like President Vladimir Putin, this may seem like the height of liberalism. Putin told cultural advisers that the rising popularity of rap music will, not be banned by rather “we must lead it and direct it.” It is not clear what Putin rap might sound like but it is clearly going to be something Stalin rather than Solzhenitsyn would dance to. We all know what Soviet central planning did to the economy. We can now watch the same magic of centrally planned rap music.
We have previously discussed how Great Britain has embraced the “nanny state” in regulating speech and conduct that are deemed unhealthy or inimical to good social policy. The latest example are new rules to take effect in 2019 the will ban sexist or gender stereotypes from advertising. This includes showing men or women in gender stereotypical activities because such images are deemed to contribute to pay inequality or psychological harm.
There is an interesting free speech case emerging in Cleburne Texas where Aaron Urbanski was arrested after protesting in front of the St. Mark United Methodist Church against its Christmas event. Urbanski, 31, was screaming that Santa is not real and was arrested for criminal trespass. It was a remarkably obnoxious and disrespectful act by Urbanski and other protesters, but much will depend on where the protest was held in front of the church. If the arrests were due to the content of the protests rather than its location, a serious free speech issue could emerge. For this part, Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain simply declared “Don’t mess with Santa” — a statement that could be cited by the defendant in a first amendment challenge to his arrest.