‘With respect I expressed my concerns, which were eventually ignored.’
I was asked to publish this because the author felt there was not an adequate response from Mythicist Milwaukee before their September 30th conference. The original author’s name has been withheld upon request. – K. Winters
The following story is based on my personal experience regarding the issue of the Mythicist Milwaukee conference and some information that might shed light about the intentions behind this event. I am writing this piece at this stage because of the lack of response by the conference organizers regarding my concerns over the invitation given to a man like Carl Benjamin (a.k.a. Sargon of Akkad) to express his opinions about different topics in a seemingly innocent discussion. Though
in truth it is merely giving a platform to one of the most poisonous people on the skeptic community.
But before that, there is an open question that I would appreciate it if it is used in the conference or any other platform when debating with Carl Benjamin. Please jump to the end of this article if you want to see it immediately.
The readers of the following piece can notice that this is not an outright condemnation of their actions, but the expression of open concern. A concern stemming over the rising tide of Neo-Fascism of different branches and types in the civil discourse of our age. The reason why I write this blog post is specifically due to the fact that the attitude taken by the Mythicist Milwaukee conference organizers is not that of trying to prevent the expansion of these destructive ideologies. It is in fact collusion that goes against all that which they say to defend.
First some backstory. Back in August I was enjoying my summer vacations under the warm Mediterranean sun that bathed the yellowed dry fields of Castille. While checking different news and issues on Social Media, I came across the information about the invitation of Carl Benjamin/Sargon of Akkad to speak in a conference in Milwaukee organized by Atheist and Humanist activists. I followed Sargon of Akkad for years. First as a fan during the chaotic times of Gamergate, then as an unrelenting critic as it dawned on me that he was a key player in the promotion of Neo-Fascist ideals. This includes the minimizing of Fascist crimes in history (by means of false equivalency to Communism, or by repeating the false mantra that Communism and Socialism are worse than Fascism) and the glorification of non-Nazi Fascist regimes, including the Pinochet regime in Chile and Videla in Argentina. Other issues I had against Carl Benjamin was the consistent harassment of people on Twitter who disagree with him, by means of dog-piling and sycophantic mobs who silence any dissenting opinion by sheer strength of volume and numbers.
Looking at the website of the Mythicist Milwaukee, I noticed that they had the following set of ideals to which they ascribe to and, of course, defend:
- Reason, logic and research
- Equal rights for women and children
- Elimination of religiously-based laws
- Religious pluralism and the separation of church and state
- Ethnic equality
- LGBTQ equality
I was appalled over the fact that a person like Carl Benjamin would be invited. And on top of that that he would be considered as a speaker, although interviewed by a podcast presenter Thomas Smith of Serious Inquiries Only. The reasons for my rejection is based on the fact that Carl Benjamin is not a man related to skepticism at all, but on the contrary. After all a skeptic implies self-criticism above all. This is something Carl has constantly rejected during his entire online career. But the most important reason comes with a question: how can we ignore the fact that Carl collaborated on a podcast where he aided in the monetization of the murder of a fellow online skeptic, Ivy from The Skeptic Feminist?
Since people already pointed these and other issues out to the organizers, I decided to point out some other way that he violated the principles they purport to defend. Apparently Carl Benjamin is quite the fan of Pinochetist execution methods, as is evident through his repeated use of the “throwing people off helicopters” meme (I would rather say propaganda cartoon). These are presented in the following screen caps used which were attached to the conference organizers.
Taking into account my personal background, I decided to send them the following e-mail (some information was edited to avoid publishing personal information):
To whom it may concern,
I would like to inform you my concern regarding one of the speakers that will appear in Mythicist Conference to be held on September 30th this year. […] It came to my attention that you will be inviting Carl Benjamin (a.k.a. Sargon of Akkad) to speak about skepticism and rational discourse. For all the concerned people who did send you an e-mail, I believe my specific qualm comes from a violation of the very principles your organization represents.
Through my interactions online with Sargon of Akkad, he repeatedly, and unabashedly, used a common used anti-leftist internet meme “throwing people off helicopters”. In attached images shown below, I have evidence for his use of this in a “t-shirt competition”, as well as repeated use of a threat of “throwing people off helicopters” to people he dislikes.
As a man who grew up in Israel and South America, I know exactly what this is about. Sargon was mocking, repeatedly, the victims of the brutal repression suffered by tens of thousands of innocent people in the infamous “Condor Operation” that included the military dictatorships of Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia in the 1970’s and 80’s. This repression led to the exile of millions of innocent people, the suppression of dissent, the imposition of religious Catholic law and education, the persecution of Atheists suspect of “Communism”, the sadistic torture of these victims and, ultimately, their execution, including the method of “throwing off helicopters”.
These dictatorships were also antisemitic and racist. 20% of the “disappeared” under the Argentinean junta of 1976 and 1983 were Jews, who represented a population of less than 1% of that country. Chilean torturers were trained and had contact with Nazi war criminals who fled to the country after World War II. Needless to say, it was a monstrous, racist, brutal regime that are the antithesis of all you represent.
As was said above Sargon of Akkad repeatedly mocked and vilified the victims, while he glorified the dictatorships who murdered them through “memes”. He made light of Fascist dictatorships in a manner that is equivalent to wearing a swastika on a forearm. When confronted with this fact, Sargon of Akkad either ignores criticism or doubles down on the mockery, therefore making it clear that the murder of these people is a matter of fun and should be emulated.
Sargon of Akkad’s light hearted promotion and glorification of South American Fascism goes against everything your team stands for: humanism, ethnic equality, religious pluralism and elimination of religiously based laws. He should have no place in a conference such as yours, nor does he deserve a platform to promote his channel and sites where such material is pushed forward.
As a South American Jew who knows of family members and friends tortured, exiled and murdered in these regimes, I beg of you not to let him promote this discourse by masking himself as a rational, open minded skeptic. Do not let his hate to poison an otherwise open and enjoyable forum.
Thank you for your attention.
P.S. Below are a series of pictures you can see of just one example of his promotion of the South American dictatorial “execution method”.
I attached relevant pictures of cases associated with his promotion of such mockery of victims. Surprisingly this email, sent by the anonymous insignificant writer of these very words, received a reply by the organizer:
Thank you for your well worded and polite email. I applaud you for being able to dissent in a manner that is positive and not insulting.
MM believes that more positive change could be accomplished if and when we can agree and disagree “sanely”. In that way, it does seem like we have some common ground. Thank you for choosing your words so carefully.
Regarding the content of your email,
I want to make sure I’m characterizing your argument correctly. Please tell me if I’m hearing you wrong — You feel that the T-shirt is mocking (or at a minimum insensitive) to the victims and families of south American violence and dictatorships (many of whom were Jews) ? Please add Nuance to this where needed.
Firstly you have empathy in regard to those occurrences. Jews have no doubt been the targets of hatred for millennia , and it’s utterly reprehensible.
My question would be : can we know for certain that Sargon is using this meme with the intent of mocking the victims of these Tragedies ? Or do your feel it’s unintentional (the Meme has another purpose) but is nevertheless still damaging ? And if so, in what specific ways?
I often hear in America a very common idiom : “don’t drink the kool aid”. It means roughly “don’t do what group X suggests because although it seems innocent, it’s actually dangerous”. This analogy Is referencing the Jonestown massacre where Jim Jones’ followers were directed to drink the beverage “kool-aid”. Chillingly, it had been intentionally poisoned by the cult leader without his followers knowledge. Over 900 people were killed in this way.
A terrible event to be sure. So i can characterize your arguement …. Do you feel this phrase/analogy of “drink the kool aid” is insensitive or purposefully degrogatory to those who lost their lives in the pseudo-Christian religious commune at Jonestown in South America in the late 70’s?
That would help me understand your complaint.
-brian (MM director)
I decided to specify my reply as detailed as possible. For the purpose of [this] publication, I decided to take away a paragraph that includes personal experiences.
Thank you for your polite reply, and your open mindedness to listen to my concern. Of course I appreciate that if we disagree sanely, we at least can inform each other for future actions. This will be a rather lengthy e-mail to make my concern as nuanced and specific as possible. Forgive me if it’s long and a bit tedious.
On the issue regarding my concern on the invitation of Sargon of Akkad, several points should be made to clear things up. Firstly, this “meme” comes from a t-shirt competition he did months ago. However he used this image repeatedly, including in his latest twitter account as a wallpaper. The one I have sent to you in the previous email is from his previous twitter account, but alas both accounts were suspended and with it much information. He did not use the meme in a single rage outburst. He placed it proudly as the first image anyone could see when entering into his twitter account, or pressing on several of his YouTube videos.
Secondly my argument is that he is using this to glorify this execution method associated with the South and Central American dictatorships of the 70’s and 80’s, which targeted specifically left wing activists, intellectuals, Atheists, Jews, freemasons and indigenous peoples, as well as human rights activists, journalists and free speech advocates. The idea of the “Sargon chopper rides” is that he places himself at the spot of the executioner, and therefore says to his audience that his political and ideological opponents (mostly leftists and what he deems “collectivists”) deserve the fate thousands received in these periods. With this he is openly threatening political opponents with violence used by sadistic Fascistic dictatorships. Needless to say this is hardly something associated with your humanist, rationalist and open minded values.
Thirdly I would like to address the argument regarding “don’t drink the cool-aid”. I believe it is not a good analogy for my concern. While of course it comes from the Jonestown massacre in Guyana, the phrase indicates of the danger of being duped. If anything it is a use of this tragedy as a warning, and understands the victims did not deserve to die as they did. Sargon of Akkad, with the use “throwing people off helicopters”, is threatening people with violence, mocking the victims of said violence, laughing at the expense of its victims, and glorifying the regimes that murdered them.
Sargon of Akkad knows what this message conveys. He uses it to threaten people with violence. Rather than the “kool aid” example, a better comparison is if someone says that he wishes people to enter “his gas chambers”. It is not a hyperbole – both are example from anti-Semitic, racist and Fascist regimes that unleashed unspeakable misery on the countries they ruled. You can imagine how anyone would feel with such open promotion of hate and violence in our online discourse. The only difference between “helicopter rides” and “gas chambers” is that the latter is more widely known in mainstream culture.
Naturally there are several indications he is fully aware of what message he wanted to convey over his repeated use of the phrase (to be attached in this email).
- On January 22nd, 2017, he used this threat on Twitter against another user, calling him “cancer” for having a dissenting opinion.
- On March 26th, 2017 he offered “free helicopter rides for Communists and Jihadis”. In this he compared the victims of the Pinochet, Videla and other South American dictatorships to Islamofascist terrorists. Most of the countless victims were human rights activists and fought for democracy and freedom in their countries, regardless of their specific ideological affiliations.
- From an unknown date we find another picture where Sargon of Akkad threatened with a “helicopter ride” for another twitter user.
- From Facebook, following the Charlottesville events this August, we find a post where he claims that “collectivists” deserve “helicopter rides”. Anyone who sees his videos should know that by “collectivists” he places in one same cathegory leftists and Fascists alike, and therefore was threatening people of different political sides.
- On many videos he expresses open admiration of the works of Friedrick Hayek. This would not be a problem had we not seen his glorification of “helicopter rides”, but considering Hayek was an open and unabashed supporter of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile (1973-1990) it would be strange he is unaware of what this “meme” represents.
With this I feel Sargon of Akkad’s inclusion in your Mythicist Milwaukee event goes against the values your team promotes. Through this kind of rhetoric he wishes to see the tragic and brutal history of South American dictatorships with a softer light, which is a first step to justify these tyrannies according to his own personal ideological convictions. Needless to say, one should look at several of his followers and social media companions to notice this trend is way underway.
Of course his participation is up to you. But I again beg of you to reconsider Sargon of Akkad’s talk, as it will only promote the above message that only harms discourse for those who fought for the recognition of the victims of these dictatorships. He is using his platform to promote this type of rhetoric. Please do not aid him in that objective.
To this I received no reply. Instead the first time I received information about this from the Mythicist Milwaukee organizers was from a podcast by the Science Enthusiast Podcast on YouTube, on September 17th. In it there were two things that I grabbed my attention. The first was the idea that there was no serious attempt at dialogue over this issue expressed around 9 minutes into the podcast. It was only three minutes later, at around minute 12:20 in the podcast, where they indicated how people who did contact them directly and respectfully did not understand the fact that it was a debate or that they were convinced the hysteria surrounding Sargon was exaggerated.
However as can be seen from my exchange, no such thing happened. With respect I expressed my concerns, which were eventually ignored. I presented graphic evidence for Carl’s tweets and actions, and it was summarily shelved or just not taken seriously. I do not expect to be replied to, as I am some average person on the Internet. But at least I would have liked to have the courtesy of being acknowledged that I was not convinced, and that the argument presented by the organizers were mostly apologia for Carl’s vile anti-skeptic and anti-humanist rhetoric. Later actions through this month have confirmed that there was never an intention of defending the principles of the conference. My personal opinion, judging from my interaction and other sources, is that the principles were shelved in favor of viewership. Rigor was sacrificed in the altar of ratings.
This said, what is to be done? Luckily Carl will not appear on stage unchallenged. Thomas Smith is a capable skeptic and is aware of the challenge ahead regarding Carl, and I do not think he will allow Carl to have a soft ball interview. Either way there is something I would kindly want to request of him or anyone attending the conference. Considering the issues raised and the rise of Neo-Fascist apologia of Pinochetism and other forms of South American dictatorships that ravaged Latin America through the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, I would request someone to ask a question on behalf of the victims of these regimes. The question is as follows:
Carl, considering your repeated posts of the joke regarding “throwing people off helicopters”, would you be willing to apologize for mocking these victims, and doing videos and activism for the recovery of the bodies and memory of all victims of these regimes and death squads in Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Dominican Republic, Haiti and the recent massacres in Mexico? In other words, will you be willing to make a full commitment to undo the damage you have done to the memory of these people?
The question is laid there, in the air. … But at least I have done what I could for the memory of those who Carl Benjamin actively mocked and derided.
Nunca más. Never again.