I have a Patreon account through which, as of this writing, I support six channels. Four have nothing to do with politics, though one does touch on politics periodically, but not through any of their actual content. Mostly. I’ve also supported two of these channels via Kickstarter campaigns. And where it has been relevant, I’ve mentioned that I do support Singularity Computers through Patreon, and continue to do so as of this writing.
I joined Patreon when Singularity Computers announced they’d be creating one. And I’ve supported other channels beyond the ones I do now, and only later withdrew support for lack of content (e.g. Julie Borowski) or other reasons.
Patreon gives those who wish to support content creators a convenient means of doing so. Along with other income sources, it has helped many content creators focus more on their content without having to worry nearly as much about paying the bills.
Since the outset, Patreon should have always been politically neutral. And initially they were, only going after accounts for egregious actions or content. Acting merely as a gateway for content patrons to support content creators. But over the last two years they’ve made it clear that aren’t going to be remain neutral, courtesy of their “Trust and Safety Council”. Taking activities outside Patreon and not connected to Patreon and using it to determine whether content creators will be able to use Patreon. Or caving to lobbying efforts and shutting down accounts without getting a full idea of what’s going on.
In other words, taking the attacks on income streams for right-leaning commentators that leftists have been doing for at least the last 10 years and continuing that by attacking Patreon accounts.
Lauren Southern was one. Her Patreon account was terminated in 2017 when she participated in an attempt to deflect migrant boats as part of an operation called “Defend Europe”, going on intelligence that apparently never made it to mainstream media headlines. I’ll let her words provide the details:
So I got banned from Patreon a year ago for a protest with Defend Europe against a boat called the Aquarius.
My “manifest observable behaviour” apparently was wrong because this was a ship set out to rescue immigrants. 1/3
— Lauren Southern (@Lauren_Southern) December 9, 2018
This was open evidence that Patreon would use what someone does unconnected to Patreon as a factor in whether to terminate someone’s account.
And recently Patreon has started purging their system of accounts linked to other individuals who’ve been merely labeled “alt-right” or “far right”, individuals who are in actuality liberal or libertarian. One of the more prominent accounts to be banned (again!) is Carl Benjamin, colloquially known as “Sargon of Akkad”. His crime? Using the n-word in a livestream on YouTube that was never posted to his channel nor his Patreon page. Yet Patreon decided to use that against him. Context: Benjamin never use that word in relation to blacks.
In response to these purges, many have decided to cut ties with Patreon. One of the more prominent examples I received in my e-mail recently, and it’s also on his Twitter account, is from Dr Sam Harris, who cut ties with Patreon as a content creator:
— Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) December 17, 2018
I will not be following suit. And if you are a content supporter, I urge you to also not follow suit. Now if you’re a content creator who wants to cut ties, as Dr Harris and others have, by all means go ahead and do so. But if you’re a content supporter, I urge you to stick around.
Closing your Patreon account in protest will serve only to deprive the content creators you currently support of a stream of income. Not all content creators will be able to weather losing their Patreon support. The majority, likely vast majority, of content creators on Patreon don’t touch politics at all. This means closing your Patreon account will deprive these content creators of potentially a significant portion of their income for something completely outside their control.
Content creators who likely have no idea what is going on suddenly losing part of their income because some content patrons decided to turn self-righteous.
This is about the same as protesting tipping of waiters and waitresses by not tipping. In other words, knowingly depriving someone who has no say in any of that of part of their income in a bid to feel self-righteous.
So for the time being I’m sticking around on Patreon. If you want to close your Patreon account in light of what’s been going on, at least determine first if there are alternate means of supporting those content creators. Because a lot of them turned to Patreon and haven’t (yet) set up alternate methods of accepting donations. Closing your Patreon account in protest is going to hurt people with no dog in the fight. And that’s grossly unfair to them all so you could feel self-righteous or “send Patreon a message”.
Now I’m not ignoring the fact that Patreon has a near-monopoly in this market space. We badly need alternatives to Patreon. But as those banned from Patreon will quickly flock to those alternatives, they will be quickly labeled havens for “alt right” content creators. SubscribeStar has suffered similar fate, and has seen some impairments from that – such as a “request” from PayPal that they not use PayPal as a payment gateway.
But does that warrant withdrawing your support from other content creators with no dog in the fight? In my opinion, no. So I’m not joining in on any of that.
Update: On December 17, Patreon issued a statement regarding banning Carl Benjamin (“Sargon of Akkad”) for “hate speech”.
Amending: YouTube channel Design Prototype Test has released a statement about their decline in Patreon subscriptions despite his channel having nothing to do with politics. It’s entirely due to Patreon contributors deciding to leave the platform.
Again, it is for the content creators I support who don’t talk about politics that I’ve remained on the platform. It is not fair to them for me to leave merely because I don’t like Patreon’s decisions.