A former contributor for The Escapist, Robert Marks, is moving forward with the libel suit against the new owners of the The Escapist, Enthusiast Gaming. The suit comes on the heels of a July 28th, 2018 podcast featuring the new editor-in-chief, Russ Pitts, who claimed that the content of The Escapist contained promotion of Alt-Right sentiment and that the site had become a recruitment tool for the Alt-Right. Former staff claimed that these statements were not true and that they were potentially damaging and harmful.
Back in early August, between August 2nd and August 3rd, Robert Marks attempted to reach a middle ground with the Enthusiast Gaming owners, contacting them and explaining how dangerous it can be for the media to spread the insinuation that the former staff of The Escapist courted Nazi sentiments. One of the heads of Enthusiast responded by acknowledging that they would be investigating the situation and looking to “set the record straight”, mentioning via e-mail…
“We’re still investigating very heavily, fyi. Talking to lots of people and gathering emails. It’s hard to keep up when we’re the outsider acquiring company who doesn’t know much history of the site and Gamergate. […]
“In the meantime, while we work on the whole investigation, if it helps anyone I’m available to call any employers and set the record straight. It would also help if I can speak with [redacted] HR and find out who was the person calling them and trying to get old Escapist editors in trouble. […]”
Enthusiast Gaming also attempted to assuage the severity of the situation by claiming that Russ Pitts was only referring to certain people on the forums as being Alt-Right and not the staff. However, Pitts’ comments about The Escapist and its political direction did not chiefly mention that he was referencing the forums only. In fact, from the podcast, he stated…
“The dots have now been connected, and some people are suddenly going ‘oh my gosh that’s kind of nuts!’ and yes it is kind of nuts, and I hope now explains what happened at The Escapist… that it was allowed to turn into a very extremist video game outlet, and a breeding ground and a recruitment tool for Alt-Right operatives.”
Following the silence from Enthusiast Gaming, Marks began the process of filing a lawsuit against Enthusiast Gaming on August 7th, 2018, and noted that the application was filed to the Superior Court of Ontario back on August 13th and was served to Enthusiast Gaming on August 15th. The organization was given an opportunity to come to the table to retract the comments made about the staff and contributors about The Escapist supporting the Alt-Right, otherwise the case would be presented and heard on September 7th, 2018.
Additionally, the cease and desist warnings were sent out to editor-in-chief Russ Pitts on August 21st, following the application at the court, and again to the legal counsel for Enthusiast Gaming on August 26th.
However, Pitts continued to bait controversy with comments from his appearance at PAX West, where he tweeted out the following on September 2nd, 2018.
— Russ Pitts no longer @ PAX West (@russpitts) September 2, 2018
If you’re unable to read the comments, Pitts wrote…
“When I inherited Escapist, it had been abandoned for over a year. The technology running the site hadn’t been updated in over four years. The front page hadn’t seen a major update in almost seven years. Everyone was fired. There was no staff. Just volunteer moderators and Yahtzee.
“They sold the computers. The desks. Everything was gone. It was ready for the dustbin. And before any of that – before was skinned alive and left to rot – it became a cesspit of the worst kind of cynical garbage content, and home to a community of head-in-ass societal rejects who would rather burn the game industry down than share it with women, or people of color, or people like you and me.
“That’s what I inherited. That’s what was left. And in spite of all of that, I’m hopeful. Because that – all of that badness – didn’t just happen. The wind didn’t make it happen. Little elves with magic wands and pointy hats didn’t make it happen. People made it happen. People made the decisions, cut the corners, closed the doors, turned off the lights, stopped caring, stopped believing… it wasn’t magic or fate, it was people. And if people can make it that bad, then people can make it better. I have to believe that. I’ve spent my life believing that there’s nothing people can’t set their minds to and accomplish. Because all it takes is one.
“If you believe, then maybe someone else will believe. And then there’s two. And then another. And suddenly this giant steaming pile of shit doesn’t look so big. Three people and a shovel. And then more. And then more. And suddenly, where there was nothing but dust and bad memories there’s a website again.
“So I need you to believe for me. I need you to look up here, at me, at these guys, and believe. I believe. They believe. That’s four shovels. Samantha, Christina, Anthony – three more. Shamus Young, and Grey and Cory. Adam, and Rob who you don’t know yet, but you will. That’s a lot of shovels. And there will be more. So long as you believe.
“I started this journey ten months ago because I didn’t want the last chapter of The Escapist to be its final chapter. Ten months ago, I was the only one who believed it could come out of that darkness. That started me on a journey that led me here with all of you. Do you believe?”
Previously I had reached out to Enthusiast Gaming and Russ Pitts regarding the state of The Escapist as well as the libel suit, but neither have responded.
Marks stated via e-mail that a retraction and/or apology could have been drafted in hours to limit potential harm to those that could be negatively impacted from being put under the umbrella of being “Alt-Right”. We’ve seen that people labeled as Nazis can be fired, harassed or abused in the public sphere, which recently happened to Justin Gartner, a disabled marine veteran who was falsely labeled as a Nazi by a New Yorker fact-checker, as reported by Military.com.
Marks explained via e-mail…
“[…] the fact that a retraction is being withheld is absolutely baffling to me. Frankly, I want to know why the future of my family was endangered by these people. I’d also like to know why the rest of the video games media appears to be giving this a pass […]”
So far the media has been silent about the case, but that could all change depending on how things play out in court.