On #SpeakingOut, Systemic Injustice and Imbalance in the World (Starting with Method)

Content Warning: This post discusses sexual assault and harassment, and while I’ve kept things from getting explicit where possible, there is one quote about an awful description of rape described by a perpetrator.

Sadly, I already had a draft of this post, because for me personally, a recent series of news events struck closely to a favored hobby and I was thinking about discussing it here, but with new stories that have broken out since I started that draft, it now applies to gaming and specifically to World of Warcraft, so, here we are.

The generic title stays on this post for a reason though – for the last two weeks or so, an absolutely horrifying number of accounts of sexual misconduct have swirled around a myriad of different entertainment industries. Depending on your interests and what news you follow, it could have started almost anywhere. For me, it began with news that comedian Chris D’Elia had been grooming underage girls, and then expanded to a noted hashtag #speakingout, with over a dozen different pro wrestlers accused of things running the gamut from rude behavior in an attempt at courtship through to sexual assault and abuse of power, with a lot of the offenders being in the British wrestling scene. By the time last weekend had concluded, accusations had grown, a WWE talent had already been let go, and there was one case where a single wrestler stateside had accrued 16 different allegations alone. The week saw multiple wrestlers released from deals with WWE’s NXT UK division, two accused performers in the US released from contracts with Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor undergoing investigations as one of their top talents (and current lead of creative) was accused, and a lot of serious introspection from fans into the type of environment professional wrestling still had – something that was more common knowledge of the cocaine-fueled locker room of the 80s and was largely thought to have subsided through a new generation of more level-headed, athletic performers who present a family atmosphere to the outside world.

This week, it touched down in a major way in gaming. Multiple Twitch streamers were named and banned, the Twitch CEO was accused of prior indifference to the role Twitch could play in helping combat this behavior, and then it reached the shores of Azeroth, as MethodJosh was re-accused of grooming underage girls and assaulting them, Method’s co-CEO Sascha Steffens was accused of unwanted sexual advances against two players, and then as Method’s current staff and player roster played dumb (or, in the case of a couple of the officers, were passive-aggressively antagonistic about the issue on Twitter), further evidence was resurfaced from the prior accusations against MethodJosh which seemed to show that Method’s leadership was in fact aware of what had happened and chose to take no action, which led to several members of the organization leaving quite publicly, a long apology from co-founder Sco, and sponsor Corsair to withdraw support of the organization.

For this post, I’m going to zero in on Method for a moment and then use that as a lens to add in some more focused discussion that my original draft lacked about how the structures of modern society often still fail victims and create protection for offenders. So, let’s talk about Method.

Method is known to most modern WoW players as the typical (although as of late, not always) world-first guild of Mythic raiders. From their earlier start as a WoW-focused guild, they grew into a sprawling eSports conglomerate and lifestyle brand, with apparel, branded chairs, million-dollar sponsorships, Twitch-famous streaming personalities, events hosted in game and sometimes in real life and teams touching every part of WoW content and a handful of non-WoW and non-Blizzard games. With this size and value came a more business-like structure, with officers of the guild at higher levels assuming business operations roles to keep the business of the brand afloat, and the hiring of a general manager, Shanna “Darrie” Roberts.

In an operation of this size, there would be cracks that would form. One of the first notably public ones that got a lot of attention was the June 2019 banning of MethodJosh. At the time, no real information was released from Twitch or Method as to why, but reports had previously surfaced of some particularly disturbing behavior. There was an incident where he and a woman (whom he had raped) was seen on his stream and things were tense, his discord server often made references to girls around 15-16 years old as “the perfect age” and was generally a hive for the type of trash you would expect to see in aggressively misogynistic spaces – calling women “whores” and “thots” and with Josh himself getting in on it, including describing raping a woman while drowning her. This report from February 2019 by Kotaku has more details about Josh and another WoW community figurehead – Elvine – who was arrested around the time of the article for soliciting underage girls.

At the time of the Kotaku article, Method’s GM Darrie was emailed with information regarding Josh’s activities and what kind of things he had said in his Discord, along with the tales of one of the girls he abused in this way, and…the response was to contact the authorities if “you feel you have evidence” as bringing it to social media would serve no purpose as “images can be doctored and recollections of the truth twisted.” Josh remained on Method’s player roster, and Darrie defended the decision to Kotaku when asked for comment at the time.

So when Josh’s Twitch ban came about, naturally, questions arose as to what caused it, and the lack of answers let people fill in the space left by silence. Given that Twitch has punished high-profile streamers for off-stream behavior, it seems most likely that this was the case, however, to this day, what actually led Twitch to this decision remains unknown to the general public. What is important here is this: despite this, despite being told that Josh was seeking out underage women and using his efame as a high-level Method player to bring them in as fans, Method declined to act.

When the world-first race for Eternal Palace began, Josh remained a part of Method’s raid team and was in the raid team shown on their race to world-first livestreams on Twitch. He was kept muted as the team had expressed concern that his voice being featured on Method’s stream would lead to them being banned, however, at one point during the stream, he unmuted on voice comms long enough to be heard discussing an “investigation” which is shown in the clip in the below Tweet:

https://twitter.com/YhwhSabaoth/status/1275982099074473984

While this could be handwaved as attempting to avoid catching a ban for having a banned streamer on your stream, the manner of discussion in an open guild chat and the topic at hand speaks to something else altogether.

It seems, through all evidence provided, that Method knew what had happened, and yet still allowed Josh a spot on the raid roster and a seat at the table of the then-growing business empire that was Method. Darrie, whose justification this week was that action in support of his victims had come too late, had been among the first notified of this awful information and was the general manager of the team who had handwaved away the initial email. Among the playerbase of Method, it seems that there was a passing familiarity with what had happened, enough for them to be deeply concerned with the discussion being streamed and quick to act to silence it and play it off. Worse still, the community that had supported Josh in his scummy Discord and many of Method’s players had been pushing to “free Josh” – attempting to get his Twitch ban overturned and allow him to return to livestreaming even after these reports and the information being provided to Method.

The so-called leaders of the organization have responded poorly, as far as I am concerned. Darrie, as mentioned above, indicated it was “too late” and expressed a remorse that could have been avoided if the team had taken action on the original claims, the Kotaku expose, the Twitch ban, or any number of different events that had built up around this issue. She then resigned from Method. Co-CEO Sascha Steffens was placed on an unpaid leave while his issue is to be investigated, although what comes of it at this point would be difficult to predict. Sco, largely the public face of the guild and the world-first mythic raiding team within, released a Twitlonger statement titled “We failed you, I failed you” where he breaks down the chain of events, which basically amounts to “we believed the authorities should investigate, and since Josh denied any wrongdoing and provided proof that an investigation had started and been closed without finding any wrongdoing, we kept him and pushed to get his Twitch back and then only after the newest reports did we act and maybe the authorities were not the right route to take.”

A large number of Method’s players have resigned from the organization, the passive-aggressive defenses of the organization’s awful response have been deleted, and while Sco’s statement indicates that there may be a future for Method, it seems like the writing is on the wall. With the number of players, partnered streamers, community personalities, and Blizzard employees who have expressed that the Method brand is now toxic, it seems incredibly unlikely that Method will ever come back. Sure, some of the core players might make a new guild and push along the progression race, but the Method that has defined the past several years of WoW’s cutting-edge progression scene is dead, murdered by a callous indifference and coverup by people more concerned with their raid team and brand image than the awful acts visited upon young victims by one of their raiders.

To circle back now to the broader issue here, Method’s initial response and Sco’s seeming surprise point to something I think not enough people genuinely understand about the world as it is today – the authorities in most places in the world are ill-suited at best for handling sexual assault. A part of the recent Black Lives Matter protests and discourse has centered on how poorly the police tend to handle rape or sexual assault, and in some cases, how the law enforcement apparatus displays a callous indifference to the fate of the victims or their quest for justice. Whether discussing the rape kit backlog or the lack of trained professionals who can speak to victims in a productive way, the justice system in place in the US (and in many places across the world) is often not a productive means to seeking the support and closure that victims of these crimes so desperately need. Even outside of that, the societal pressures put on sexual assault victims of all genders often enable abusers to escape. The types of people who would make the memes and say the things they did in Josh’s Discord don’t just read allegations like the ones against Josh and process them – they lash out against victims, slut-shaming, attempting to defame the accusers, and in many cases threatening them and endangering them further, which is then not helped by the lack of helpful response at the law enforcement level.

Darrie and the Method organization may well have thought that by referring to law enforcement, they had made the correct call and put the issue to the proper resources, but in effect, such a statement carries the weight of undertone – “we don’t care.” Sure, I can provide the benefit of the doubt and suggest that this is not what they meant to convey, but Sco clearly recognizes this after taking a few moments to Google what happens to many sexual assault victims that come forward and how the authorities fail them. Of course, by taking the claim seriously in the first place, he and the organization of Method could have neatly sidestepped that issue anyways, but they didn’t, and so here we are.

With all of these recent allegations across broad swathes of the entertainment industry, there is something I feared. In the past, many such movements had been kneecapped by systemic and institutional rot. Me Too was tarred and feathered by many and derided as fame-seeking hysterics trying to get revenge, despite many allegations made under the hashtag later proving true. Today, the environment hasn’t changed much – the current US president has several credible rape accusations and a history of scummy and sleazy behavior, his main competitor in the upcoming election has a history of being generally creepy to women and girls and a single credible rape accusation, the culture of gaming still has an undercurrent of shitty human beings who latched onto Gamergate and similar social movements designed to undercut the growing voice of women, black people, and POC in the industry, and in the other affected industries of comedy and pro wrestling, both have very similar systemic rot – a “boy’s club” culture where hazing and harassment right up to and sometimes over the line of assault is accepted or hidden, a history of being intolerant to women if not openly misogynistic, and where coming out with allegations is often met with consequences for the victim even when they are telling the truth.

Pollyanna, a British women’s wrestler, was forced to retire after she was raped a few years ago, because her assailant is friends with famous NJPW star Will Osprey, who was alleged to have pushed promoters in the UK to blacklist her from shows. Joey Ryan, famous for using a “dick flip” which involved his opponents grabbing his penis and being flipped by it and a “boobplex” which involved a belly-to-back suplex on his female opponents who were being grabbed by their breasts, flew under the radar because for fans and those in the business of wrestling, spots like that are talked over in advance and should, in theory, involve the consent of both parties. However, in retrospect, in many cases, Joey Ryan was also the booker and promoter of the show, making him in effect the boss of the performers who would have to grab his junk or be fondled for an otherwise normal wrestling move, and so the dynamic of that shifts sharply. Many of the UK allegations involve uncomfortable power dynamics – people training to be wrestlers, who were coerced by their trainers into uncomfortable situations with an implicit ultimatum hanging overhead – do this or else you’ll get the reputation of being hard to work with.

What has been heartening to see, however, is how well this has largely been handled. In wrestling, most of the individuals accused with sufficient evidence have been released from contracts. Joey Ryan (Mr. 16 Allegations himself) was released from Impact Wrestling, shut down Bar Wrestling (which he owned) and has vanished from Twitter, with his industry friends in The Elite removing him from their YouTube series without objection. The NXT UK talent who were often in trainer roles abusing their power with their young female trainees have been released. In gaming, Twitch banned the accused parties fairly quickly, and while their CEO has yet to respond to allegations that he has refused to do so in the past, the action taken (accompanied by an internal email posted to Twitter with fairly stock PR statements) has at least shown some degree of action accompanying words. Chris D’Elia, in comedy, has become a punchline and appears to be out of any consideration for roles or specials. Granted, this could be another case like Louis CK or Aziz Ansari, where credible and evidenced allegations momentarily have consequences and then the assailants return to work as martyrs, but at least for now, it seems some measure of justice has been done (albeit not the correct legal action given the severity of the issue in D’Elia’s case). And back to our main story here, with Method, the coverup they appear to have engaged in has cost the organization dearly – outside of the same GG-affiliated shitheads who refuse to engage honestly with this subject matter at any time, the name Method no longer carries any real significance or value and is toxic. When the story could have been contained to the individual player, it instead became a cautionary tale – a refusal to act on such a story shows institutional rot, and became about the culture of a guild willing to cover that serious of an allegation and show that level of disregard to the victims of their player.

If all it costs the world is Method for us to get a more just society, then that is a price I am willing to pay.

7 thoughts on “On #SpeakingOut, Systemic Injustice and Imbalance in the World (Starting with Method)

  1. This has been such a bizarre story to watch unfold. I saw the headline about allegations about MethodJosh first, and went: “Hmm, that name seems familiar, did I ever watch anything by him?” Putting his name into YouTube, the first results were the clips of Poopernoodle visiting him and I was baffled by how everyone seemed to find it incredibly amusing to watch him be a complete arsehole to her for hours. Then I found her account of the rape and it became even more horrifying when I realised that I had just watched the events immediately before and after that event.

    It’s quite messed up to me that we live in a society where people would watch this degree of abuse as live entertainment while also thinking that it’s not real. Reminds me a lot of the book/play The Arsonists I had to read in school, which is basically about a guy tolerating and even aiding some people set his house on fire because he can’t believe that anyone would be this open about doing such a thing. If someone’s consistently behaving like a terrible human being, you better believe them.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I never followed the Method contingent outside of news on world-first, so I had only heard passive whisperings of the Poopernoodle incident, and when I read her account in the process of writing this piece, it was pretty terrifying and definitely a point at which I think any plausible deniability should have went out the window. It’s why I find the “streamer persona” defense so transparently bad, because it is to a one used to justify awful behavior. When I’ve tried to watch such streamers in the past, I just can’t. I stopped being an Asmongold fan when he went from being the butt of the joke to being casually shitty to others and his community exploded with toxic assholes in the process. To his credit, he recognized a problem with it this year and has been working to correct it, and the stuff I’ve seen from him since has been much better. However, he also never so casually berated a woman on camera to the point that even his audience questioned it, so there is definitely an exponential difference between the two.

      My hot take about gaming for years now has been that the culture around it needs to do far better at weeding out such people and correcting the systemic indifference that has made the word “gamer” setup for a joke about awful, intolerant people. I don’t fully know how to go about that in a proper manner, but I think things like this latest wave of allegations being taken seriously and organizations that fail to meet that bar being swept away is a good start.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is going to be unpopular opinion, but I don’t think Method were incorrect in what they did. First of all, people assumed that Josh was just pretending to be edgelord. Most popular Twitch streamers (DrDisrespect, Asmongold, Tyler1 and so on) have some sort of stream persona. They are pretending to be more emotional or dumber than they really are. So that’s why Josh was able to act that way for so long, though in his case it was probably his real face. Even PooperNoodle told exactly that thing in her statement.

    Now to the point of allegations and here I actually agree with what Asmongold had to say on this topic. Method acted by contacting the police, but they didn’t cut ties with Josh. Why? Because this was their friend vs some random e-mail, realistically they can’t believe every single thing somebody on the internet wrote to them and they are not supposed to do police’s job. Now what if they did cut the ties and this was just a libel? Josh would lose his job and they lose good player based on someone’s sick joke, that’s it. It’s a tough choice to make and I’m not sure anyone would be able to take the right option.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think in most cases (including those named) that the stream persona is usually a good cover for real life tendencies – maybe dialed up to 11 for a character, but still present and still an accurate assessment of the values at the core of that person.

      As for the core point, if the incident had stopped and ended with the “Jane Doe” email, I’d fully agree. It wasn’t enough on its own to merit much of a response other than perhaps a direct ask of Josh if he was familiar with the allegations. At a certain point, however, it went from being a single red flag of unknown origin to a forest of them, and once there was an email, the Kotaku article corroborating that email’s contents, the Poopernoodle incident, and the Twitch banning? At that point, it starts to move from reasonable doubt to willfully negligent, and most of Method’s leadership seems to acknowledge at this point they ended up there.

      If all that ever happened is the email, I’d be on Method’s side despite pointing out that the police rarely help in such incidents, but it stepped far beyond that in a relatively short window of time and based on that, I’d stand by the idea that Method’s response was insufficient.

      Like

  3. D’Elia was a surprise to me, and I think you’re sadly right that he’ll resurface because he has powerful friends in the industry (though Hardwick is damaged goods at this point, but he’s gotten his own scandal swept mostly under the rug).

    I find it astonishing that pro wrestling is moving faster and more decisively on such matters.

    But also not astonishing. Stories from my female friends and others that are being signal-boosted are painting a bleak picture, and pretty much showing that it appears to be a prerequisite for top-end raiding that you have to be a misogynistic, racist douchebag in order to excel. THAT is the core that Method was drawn from, and then apply loads of money and you have a whole guild of rotten tomatoes. It isn’t just WoW, but you will find this kind of thing wherever Gaming Gets Big.

    To paraphrase a comic book character, “This industry needs an enema!”

    Liked by 1 person

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