“I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us.”
–Ray Stanz, “Ghostbusters”
I really have been putting off writing this post because just contemplating all this makes me really fucking mad. And it’s as triggering as FUCK and it makes me wish I never went down this rabbit hole, much less ever heard of any of the entities involved. It’s dredged up shit for me personally regarding a different fandom/industry—comics—and I’ve just had to process a lot of shit the last couple weeks.
But I felt like I couldn’t “end” the coverage of the Channel Awesome implosion without at least briefly (and fuck it, it won’t be briefly; how could it?) addressing this topic.
So Channel Awesome (read the recap here if you’re not familiar), in response to the “Not So Awesome Document” accusing them of various malfeasances and just dickish behavior, posts a lengthy “response.” This response, which was sort of lopsided and misleading on a bunch of points, did not go over well in that fan community; their YouTube subs continued to drop, and eventually all their content producers quit except for two.
But apparently…there was one aspect of that response that would set off like a firebomb in those circles…something that was apparently the last thing most people ever expected to come out of all this.
The response contained screenshots from a chat log addressing one of the content providers/producers who was let go from Channel Awesome some years ago for alleged sexual misconduct of some type. CA reproduced the chat log in particular reference to the following accusation in the “Not So Awesome Document”:
“The following story is from an anonymous contributor we are calling “Jane Doe,” recounting the story of a former producer who had sexually abused her, and claims that management was aware of said producer’s deviancy for over a year and did nothing.”
Jane Doe claimed to have been 18 years old when this producer, in her words, “sexually groomed” her—sort of, from what I’m gathering from all this, creepily manipulated her:
Now, a number of people objected to Jane Doe’s story on the grounds that it wasn’t “truly” about sexual assault or anything like that. That she was a legal adult at the time, and nothing really “wrong” happened here. But I think Jane Doe’s story, when placed within the context of what we will soon learn (thanks to the infinite wisdom that is Channel Awesome management), does hold some significance.
That said, there were numerous people who skimmed the document or heard about it from a friend of a friend of a friend on Twitter who incorrectly claimed that Doe’s story was a reference to rape and/or pedophilia. As far as I can tell: it was not.
And so here we come to the part in the story where gasoline was poured onto already burning gasoline.
Channel Awesome management, in their infinite wisdom, produced chat logs that referenced a DIFFERENT incident of alleged sexual misconduct on the part of the unnamed producer…this one (we will soon discover) apparently involving a claim of sexual assault. Not “grooming” an 18-year-old. But straight-up assault.
And CA, in their infinite wisdom, left enough of the first letter of the person’s first name still visible in the chat log so that, when corresponded with the date (also of course visible in the chat log), it became rather easy to figure out who this person was.
And this was a video game reviewer called Justin Carmical—“JewWario.” Known as the “Mr. Rogers” of the Channel Awesome set, Justin was considered one of the most popular, well-respected, and nicest of this community of video producers.
Justin unfortunately committed suicide in 2014 by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had been let go by Channel Awesome a year before that for undisclosed reasons. Many, many videos and online tributes were made to him in the wake of his suicide. He was, up to his departure from CA, considered an essential part of that community.
Once Justin’s name was linked to this story via Internet Sleuths™, and the requisite Reddit thread was formed, a woman claiming to be the victim of this producer—the woman referenced in the chat log, but not the “Not So Awesome Document”—anonymously came forward with a very disturbing story.
It starts as follows:
I’m the woman that is being talked about in that chat log. I am not Jane Doe from the google doc….that’s another person that he did this to, I know her and she didn’t come forward for the same reason I didn’t. We were, and still are, absolutely terrified of backlash. I understand that without more information, you can’t prove that I’m just a nobody making shit up, but I’m not. I was told about this as early as last night, and after 5 years of being forced into silence, I cannot tell you how I’m feeling. People know now, they actually believe us now.
And she goes on to accuse Justin of sexual assault:
Seeing his photo makes me sick. I hate that he killed himself, even with all of this, I never ever would be okay with that, it’s a terrible thing that happened, and I wish he never did that, but I cannot be okay with the sexual assault that happened to me when I repeatedly said NO, and he waited until I passed out.
Now, Channel Awesome former HR person Holly hears about this thread and tweets confirmation that this anonymous woman was the female being referenced in the published chat logs:
And then a Count Jackula, who claims to have been a part of that larger community and a friend/acquaintance of both Justin and the unnamed victim, posts a video further corroborating the woman’s story. WARNING: it is EXTREMELY graphic and disturbing:
As I went further and further down this rabbit hole, reading and watching many discussions about the topic…people bringing up their own transcripts of chats discussing this situation years ago, and so on…it was as triggering as FUCK. I probably should never have fucking done it.
Because it’s like…you had something so wonderful with what Channel Awesome originally seemed to be…and there seemed to be such a love and camaraderie between all these video producers…and between the producers and the fans.
And the “Not So Awesome Document,” at least for me, was the first peeling off of that outer rosy layer…
And what things have degenerated to, several layers later…
It’s fucking sad and disillusioning. And it makes me angry for the alleged victims, because quite obviously they were NEVER going to get the requisite type of help and support they needed from Channel Awesome or most of their environment/peers.
In the 20+ years I had been involved on and off in the comic book industry/community, stories of sexual assault at conventions were sadly extremely common. And most often, these assaults were not reported to the police by the victims because of fear or fan/industry/friend backlash. And why is that? It’s because…there is a very palpable sense that there are very little “adults” in that room.
By adults I mean a combo of empathy, maturity, and knowing what to do when faced with such a serious situation as assault and rape. The environment to handle such a serious situation in an appropriate, selfless, effective way—it’s just not there.
Instead, you have women holding on to this pain for years, telling a few friends who might not be in any position of “authority” (as the management of Channel Awesome was) to do anything about it. These females knew that they would be re-traumatized if they came out on these incidents—especially on someone as beloved as JewWario—and rightfully so.
As of this writing, at least according to one former Channel Awesome producer, efforts have been apparently been made on the part of fans to “out” the victims and harass them.
In the comics world…there is one “beloved” creator that I currently know of who has been accused of at least one assault at a con. As in the JewWario case, the victim didn’t want to publicly say anything for fear of repercussions. She did reach out to one journalist/friend who reached out to a bigger journalist known for her outspoken “feminist” stance…but this feminist journalist, part of the accused’s social circles, expressed immediate doubt on the woman’s story, because—and I’m looking at the screenshot of the text right now—
“I’ll tell you this: BLANK always has known when no means no. I have seen that with my own eyes dozens of times. He is an obnoxious flirt but I have NEVER seen him do anything that went further. So I would have a hard time believing that.”
So if the woman in your fan/industry circles who is one of the biggest feminists immediately shoots down the notion that her friend could be capable of assault…who can you go to?
And the funniest thing of ALL is: that feminist journalist? She did the same shit to me, backing up another friend. Outwardly: very “progressive.” But in terms of her own friend base? A different story.
And why is that? I think it is, from a primal standpoint…That fan/industry community? That’s your FAMILY. And when somebody from the “family” shits the bed and assaults/harasses someone, the wagons immediately circle and tighten up around them. I’ve seen it so many times by now. Even by people who in any other circumstance would have been 100% empathetic and wonderful. And these people suddenly “change” when their bud is accused and it’s some scary scary shit.
A few months ago a young woman had made an inquiry about this accused comics freelancer—would it be “safe” to be around him at a post-con party? Answer: “NO.”
Because that’s all you can do. You can “warn.” There doesn’t seem to be a lot of justice.
And so my advice to young women going to these cons, and getting involved in these communities (often containing people of very varying ages—teens to middle aged): if you get assaulted at a con, go to the police, go to your family and trusted friends, go to a doctor and/or a therapist, go to a lawyer…do not leave all this to the “court” of your peer base. That’s my #1 advice: don’t depend on these people to know how to handle this situation or to necessarily back you up where it matters. Go to professionals. Don’t even go to “fan” journalists, or journalists within your industry—go to Buzzfeed, Daily Beast, etc.
Now: in the specific case of many people within that CA community, including some former producers…the feeling I get is that many of them have “accepted” that JewWario probably did some of what he was accused of. Particularly, I’d point to these few video responses:
But the fucked thing is…well, there are several fucked things here…
a) Justin is dead. He’s been dead for four years. So we’ll never hear from him on this—and there will never be, if indeed he did any of those things, true “justice.”
b) The alleged victims are apparently getting the type of online abuse they feared which prevented them from speaking up in the first place.
c) Channel Awesome apparently let go of Justin because of these allegations…but then made at least one monetized video tribute to him anyway after he died!!!
If Channel Awesome wanted to really do something to balance the scales…to just regain some of that massive goodwill they have lost…sponsor an awareness program about assault at conventions.
(EDIT: there is also a conspiracy theory going around that Channel Awesome purposely left that tiny remnant of the first letter of Justin’s name in the chat log to “throw him under the bus” and distract people…that they were hoping Internet Sleuths™ would figure it all out from that. I think that gives the peeps at CA waaaaay too much credit for any supposed cleverness.)
Anyway. You know, I finally dumped most of that specific comics freelancer/industry crowd like a week ago from my Facebook. I had dumped a bunch months and even years ago…but I finally cleared the last bit out of my life. Partially because of shit like this. Because going to a con and being around those people…even being at a bar around those people…didn’t feel “safe” on several different levels to me.
Similarly, the Channel Awesome brand is so tainted at this point…that I’m done with that too.
I’m done with the whole culture.
I write what I do on this site as a personal intellectual (and sometimes not-so-intellectual) exercise for me. But the type of “geek” culture that has been operating for the past decade…
It’s over, it’s falling apart, it’s becoming this grotesque entity that just will not die, like a waxen-faced former starlet in her 70s still wearing her signature beehive wig.
It’s time for something new and fucking better.