Patreon(/Soundcloud) - the politics/power of the middleman


I don’t know if many people have seen the stuff happening with Patreon, but they recently banned Lauren Southern, and a few other people, followed by some high profile people quite vocally leaving the platform (Sam Harris most notable (last I saw he was top5 or top10 on the platform)) in response.

Jack Conte (the CEO of Patreon whose music I really like) appears to be in full damage control, putting out this video in response to the blowback on the banning(s):

Jack Conte will also be on The Rubin Report on Monday, presumably talking about, and defending their position on the matter.

Now, although it would be interesting and worthwhile to talk about the specifics of the situation with Patreon/Lauren/IGD/DefendEurope, I figured after all the interesting discussion about Soundcloud’s recent issues, that it would be worthwhile to unpack the functionality of “active” middlemen in an increasingly democratized world. Specifically with regards to peer-to-peer/decentralized technologies and how these can’t not destabilise/disrupt (in a good way!) hierarchy with regards to politics, journalism, art/music/aesthetics, etc…

I know some (many?) of you use Patreon, with @Dan_Derks using it for SOUND & PROCESS podcast, so what are your thoughts on this stuff, etc…


Part of it is being transparent with your ideals. As much as he’d like this video to convince me/everyone that his policy is applied consistently it’s just too fishy/convenient that IGD just happened to be in the queue the same week the Lauren Southern shit went down. I also don’t appreciate his coloring of the situation. There seems to be a strong case that these NGO ships are involved in for profit human-trafficing. He would have done well to at least mention that here so that he at least gives everyone watching a nod that he is aware of all the information, and came to this decision none-the-less. Omitting that–not even recognizing this–sits wrong. After seeing this I wanted to cancel our Patreon account (Rod and I share one) but we’ll wait til after the Rubin Report interview. I can’t imagine what he’ll say to make me change my mind. I fully expect that he’ll hang himself with his words. Middlemen should be as neutral as possible (in my opinion) and here’s a case where his SJW underwear is showing.


I’m not liking anything I’m seeing in this thread. All of the videos, as well as @Rodrigo and @Angela’s commentary, are bothering me. And I’m not going to beat around the bush, they bother me for political, that is - ideological, reasons.

Tim’s video bothers me because he seems to think intentions matter and that you should take people at face value.

Jack’s video bothers me because he seems to think they don’t, or rather, that he can ignore creator’s politics and focus on their behavior, without acknowledging his own politics and the fact that you can’t separate them from his own behavior.

@Angela’s use of SJW in a derogatory light disturbed me pretty deeply. Maybe we shouldn’t be painting all those concerned with a broad concept such as “social justice” with such a broad brush?

@Rodrigo’s commentary bugs me because it reduces it all to economics. “The blockchain will save us” marketization of everything is as much a problem as it is a solution.

So, I’m having a really hard time finding anything at all about this thread that doesn’t piss me off in some way.

I’ll acknowledge fully that there is a lot I don’t know about the situation. This is why I haven’t taken any sides. But I will say this: you have politics. You have ideology. You can not be neutral. It isn’t possible.


Yeah the politics of the whole thing are complicated, and a whole discussion into itself, same goes for the economics and ideology as well.

I didn’t give my opinion on the actual situation (or tried to avoid it as much as possible) as I, too, am not really informed of all the specifics involved in the situation, only really becoming aware of all of it a few days ago.

I was mainly curious of where people’s feelings/thoughts(/whatever) are when and where these things intersect, as, as you mention, neutrality is not possible. Transparency is a more achievable goal however, but also neither here or there.

The whole blockchain thing wasn’t so much an economic stance (I used the disrupt language knowingly ironically, since that’s total market bullshit speak), but more in the inherent decentralization something like that can bring.


Point taken. For me, the definition of what SJW is has nothing to do with a concern for social justice (conscientiousness and concern for fellow man is good).


I guess the key this is the never-ending battle of where does freedom of speech end and inciting illegal activity begin? Which as you can see from the political spectrum across the world, different people have different views on.

But another, easier for me to answer question is should people have the right to use certain platforms? In this case, and many others, the people in question have clearly broken the terms of use. Has Lauren’s freedom of speech been impacted? Nope, she can still say whatever the hell she likes. Just not on the private platform, Patreon.

My major mancrush Brian Cox said: “The problem with today’s world is that everyone believes they have the right to express their opinion AND have others listen to it. The correct statement of individual rights is that everyone has the right to an opinion, but crucially, that opinion can be roundly ignored and even made fun of, particularly if it is demonstrably nonsense!”

This argument should remain separate to if she has been discriminated against due to her political beliefs. Now, I haven’t seen evidence of this. But that would be a separate issue to freedom of speech.

Now, I think the real issue here is the massive divide between rational society and the alt right, between Trump loving fascists and sane politics based on evidence, between brexit and oh, fuck no.

I, like anyone else in the UK that hasn’t spent the last few years with their heads rammed firmly up their arses, have met, befriended, worked with and become community with recent migrants, especially from Syria, Iraq and sub-saharan Africa. When I hear about people trying to stop NGOs from rescuing people, I image friends, colleagues, my community, washed up on beaches. So, fuck you, Lauren Southern, you utter cockwomble. And good on you, Jack Conte. Now go and make another video as amazing as “Gulf”.

I recently helped in the production of a documentary by immigrants to Swansea, of them thanking the UK for the support they’ve had. I was in tears throughout my work with them, and was left an emotional wreck from their stories. It’s currently touring the UK, catch it if you can. Here’s the trailer:


Thank you very much for being transparent about your politics. I happen to agree.

Beautiful trailer, what a fantastic project.


As I mentioned earlier, I don’t feel like I have the complete picture, enough to have a solid opinion on it, but in reading up, it appears that the TOS are being used selectively (even with the IGD example mentioned in the video(s) above), which is completely up to them, but doesn’t line up well with the image of transparency being put forward.

I will caveat this in saying that I feel like I am significantly further “left” (god, I hate this terminology) of the issues being discussed here, but I still find it problematic to have companies selectively (and not transparently) applying policy based on political beliefs, especially (and particularly) when those beliefs are different from my own, as I value the discourse and the clarification/refinement it brings to my understanding of issues.

With companies increasingly acting as mediators to everything in our world, it is easy to say that “they can take their ball and go to another park”, but it doesn’t take a very slippery slope to see where this can push down to the ISP/infrastructure level (like the UKs increasingly absurd war on “porn”). As much as I disagree with Trump/Brexit, I think those situations came about specifically because of lack of discourse/discussion. (Relevantly, I also don’t think that Trump voters are fascist klansmen running around trying to shoot gay people with assault rifles; they were just subject to (near violent levels of) disenfranchisement and mis/disinformation)


Except, many of them absolutely without question will tell you themselves to your face that they are in fact fascist klansmen running around trying to shoot gay people with assault rifles. Their only criticism of this characterization will be that it wasn’t hyperbolic enough.


Hehe, while I don’t doubt that “those” people exist, my tendency would be to clump them in with the vocal minority that, much like the proverbial/platonic Florida Man, makes everyone else look bad. I also tend towards an optimistic (borderline naive) view of the world, so I’d like to think that people who have different views from me, do so for reasons that are separate from “being evil”. (which, of course, is also possible)

Then again, I’ve not lived in the US for over 10 years, so I don’t really know what things there are like anymore.


Ok, but leave room for the idea that some NGOs are not involved in a benevolent mission, but rather are involved in human trafficking. Just leave space for that possibility. There is at least some evidence of this.

  • I don’t want anyone to die at sea AND I am against human trafficking.
  • And to clarify, I’m not saying ALL NGOs. I’m saying it’s not so clear…
  • Jack Conte IS saying it’s clear. And he’s using THAT as a shield, so he doesn’t have to own up that a political agenda is being articulated through his platform. I don’t want the people who I disagree with politically to be de-platformed. These people help me understand things outside my own bubble.

(And I don’t actually think this is about free speech. Patreon is a private company. But it’s good to talk things through to see if continuing to use/support a private company is in line with my own values.)


I guess this is where my “politics” isn’t even recognised by the general debate.

I think that “countries” or “states” are human constructs brought about to divide people into an “us” and a “them”. I therefore think that borders are a cynical and fundamentally racist idea. I think that saying that because I was born in the UK, and someone else wasn’t, and therefore I have more right over it than anyone else is flawed thinking. We’re all just basic organisms striving to flourish on a rock hurtling through space. Our nationalities are imaginary concepts dreamt up to perpetuate inequality.

Sure, a lot of people are exploited by traffickers in horrendous ways. But the only reason traffickers are able to do so, is because humanity has created an inequality first.

And besides, Lauren Southern doesn’t give a fuck about whether immigrants are exploited or not. She doesn’t want immigration to happen at all.


Sorry, but this isn’t about human trafficking, it’s about de-platforming.

Regarding de-platforming, I guess I don’t really have much of an issue with it. I’m not sure I’d choose to do it myself, but I guess it’s a tool in a platform manager’s toolbox. Sure debate and discussion are higher ideals, but sometimes a blunt instrument is desirable.

Un-moderated platforms have just as many issues, different issues, but just as many, as “censored” platforms. And NO platform is agenda-less, no platform is neutral, no platform is transparent. We’ve just got to teach people the skills to read context in information.


I totally agree that this is a largely historical artefact that has likely run out its usefulness. And I would even add that the enforced/artificial us/them divide extends to other things beyond nationality (although not as much on a socioeconomic plane as one would expect, but that’s another topic altogether).

And to be clear, I am by no means pro-Lauren at all, and only really became aware of her during the G20 protests and now this. I do not think she has the best interest of immigrants in mind, that’s for sure.

I guess what makes all of this especially complicated as it’s difficult to decouple politics from policy (and not really possible, as @jasonw22 pointed out), which kind of links back up with the us vs them thing, with that divide happening politically/ideologically, as opposed to geographically/nationally.

People should not instigate violence, unilaterally (not even “nazi” punching!), but short of that, we should not only allow, but encourage people who have different opinions to speak (to us and others), on as many platforms as possible, especially when we disagree with them. If there is an invisible hand (opaque policy/TOS) muting/unmuting opinions based on similarity to their own, we end up in a disconnected (and dangerous) world, especially given the shitty track record that these “invisible hands” have in the first place!

edit: responding to the 2nd post in here to keep things tight

100% agree.
We just need the information and context, which is what de-platforming risks removing.


This is one way in which you and I couldn’t be more different. But thank heavens for that. Optimists need pessimists and vice versa.

Well, parts of it are much the same as they’ve been since the 50s.

The 1850s.


I’m a bit confused about why politics/ideologies even matter here. Patreon is a private company, they are free to accept/deny whoever they want on their platform.

Jack was uncomfortable with having Lauren Southern on his platform, it’s his company, good for him.

If Lauren Southern wants to band up with a bunch of people and create a Patreon for the content Patreon doesn’t want, they’re fully free to do that.

Is anyone here advocating that there should be state level regulations that prevent “middle man companies” to refuse doing business with whom they please?


No, nobody is suggesting anything remotely like that at all. It’s a discussion about how we feel about the behavior of this particular company, with the intention of informing a decision about whether to continue to participate in transactions with them.


@guillaume, what you’re saying, if generalised, is the gay cake ordeal all over again. I don’t think private companies should be able to discriminate on grounds of belief, or any other protected characteristic for that sake. But they are allowed to create non-discriminatory rules, such as not promoting harm.


@jasonw22 that’s fair. Ultimately to me it boils down to the contrast between Jack’s right to choose what content he wants or doesn’t want on his platform vs Lauren’s right to free speech. The former seems to prevail here, because the latter isn’t attacked in any way. If Twitter felt like banning Donald Trump (which they would never do for business reasons, but still), there’d be nothing legally or morally wrong with it.

@Simeon there is definitely a parallel with the gay cake, although it raises the question of whether Patreon has a relationship of business/customer or publisher/author.

In other words, there’s nothing wrong with a publisher refusing to publish your black history novel if they feel like it doesn’t fit with their content; but there’s likely something wrong with a restaurant refusing to serve you for being black. The Patreon story here feels more aligned with the former than the latter.


I’m trying to listen, and trying to hold my tongue, but I must say, this thread really bums me out. If people can’t recognize the difference between ‘free speech’ and ‘hate speech’ on any given platform, then it’s doomed. That said, I think Patreon is going to be just fine.