In the summer of 2020, Owen Benjamin won his lawsuit against Patreon.
To sum up, in 2019 Patreon removed him from their platform citing “hate speech.” A year later, Owen won his lawsuit against Patreon for violation of free speech.
Since then, this has given an opportunity for other platforms to pop up.
Despite my support for free speech and my support for the court’s decision to find in favor of Benjamin, my opinion is this is a covert undermining of the Arts.
Patreon’s sole reason for beginning the platform back in 2013 was so that those who were having difficulty breaking into an Arts career could find a place to create and make money from their creative work. Patreon specifically was designed for videographers with exemplary production value and talent, which is why they partnered with Vimeo. Unlike YouTube, Vimeo offers an exceptional experience for those who appreciate the artistry behind film, videography and video essaying.
I had personal conversations with excited tech bros back in 2012. They talked about how they were looking for funding in San Francisco to start a platform that would be a place of refuge for creatives, specifically those who had just graduated from art school and were finding it impossible to break into a career. Their mission, they said, was to provide the platform for artists, musicians, videographers and video essayists who could make money from their creations, on their own terms.
As mentioned, once Benjamin won his lawsuit against Patreon other platforms that host content creators started to pop up. One platform is Rokfin. Rokfin has curated their platform toward broadcasters, sports commentators and journalists. At first glance, they are not interested in artistic content and seem to shy away from videographers or video essayists in general. Perhaps they will open up their site to creatives eventually, but I won’t hold my breath. If a person wants to host their content on the Rokfin site, they have to be invited in. Rokfin will claim they will review your content and then see if it’s a good fit and get back to you.
That’s corporate speak for “No thanks. Not interested.”
Equally off-putting is another platform that boasts Tulsi Gabbard, a member of the Council for Foreign Relations and who has a staunch background in politics, as their high ranking content creating member. It doesn’t seem like this platform’s audience would really care what a couple of video essayists with art backgrounds would have to say about anything.
As a result of the Benjamin lawsuit what seems to be happening is this extreme shift toward broadcasting, journlism-ing, video chats and information overload. All of this is overshadowing and killing any true creative commentary.
As artists who are struggling to survive in a world of “creators” who have abandoned their own art background (Ryan Cristián of The Last American Vagabond has a Culinary Arts degree from the most exclusive culinary school in the world – The Culinary Institute of America) in favor of information overload, this shift has made it nearly impossible for content creators like book of ours to be seen or heard.
When Ryan Cristián’s site was removed from Patreon, no one bothered to state the obvious: Patreon doesn’t exist for broadcasters like him. They exist for the Arts. They have always existed for the Arts. Does that mean I want all journalists or non-artist types to be removed from Patreon? Of course not.
But journalists typically have their own websites and can operate their site on a subscription basis. There are dozens of subscription software and sites curated just for journalists. Besides, Cristián has connections with other sites that will support him and he has the support of the entire Silicon Valley libertarian “disruptor network” at his fingertips.
The calculated removal of his site from Patreon, then the equally calculated outrage as a result seemed a little too calculated for this cynical San Franciscan. I even had a couple of my patrons say they are thinking of stopping their patronage in solidarity to Patreon’s vicious take-down of Cristián. I understand where they are coming from, but knowing the history of Patreon as a site created solely for the Arts, this gesture of solidarity feels like it might do more harm than good.
If it weren’t for (admittedly liberal slanted) heavy hitters ContraPoints or Philosophy Tube or Lindsay Ellis on Patreon, I’m not sure the platform would even be as popular as it is. But to be honest I don’t think the platform is going anywhere, despite the screeching that it had met its end after the outcome of the Benjamin lawsuit last summer.
The cudgeling and diminishing of the Arts is not a left or right issue. It’s a human rights issue. If all information must now be presented through speaking into a microphone without any room for theater, or theatre, or THEATRE and artistry must be pushed aside for people like Tulsi Gabbard or reactionary informational dialogue about whatever issue is shaping our world, then what’s the point of this:
book of ours are working artists and could really use your help. By becoming a patron at www.patreon.com/bookofours you can help support us as we continue to archive history in unique and creative ways through our video essays. You can find all of our work at http://www.youtube.com/bookofours and our back-up channel at book of ours backup on YouTube. The artists can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org