The libel and defamation lawsuit that former Escapist contributor Robert B. Marks filed against Enthusiast Gaming and The Escapist Magazine editor-in-chief Russ Pitts has moved forward to the next phase. The defendants, Enthusiast Gaming and Russ Pitts, have motioned to dismiss the lawsuit because they claim that Marks is suing the wrong company and that Pitts wasn’t referencing anyone specific by claiming that former staff at The Escapist were Alt-Right and associated with Nazism, he was simply referencing Right-wing politics.
In court documents shared with One Angry Gamer, Pitts held the opinion that any Right-wing opinion expressed on The Escapist falls into Alt-Right/Nazism. Pitts attempted to defend the comments by stating that he was addressing Right-wing politics in general and not anyone in particular, and therefore Robert B. Marks was not defamed. You can view the majority of the rebuttal from Pitts in this album here.
This was further detailed on page 9, section 19, following various examples, where it stated:
[…] “Based on the foregoing facts, Russ Pitts expressed his honestly held opinions about the right-wing politicization of The Escapist.” […]
[…] “The Facts on which the comment is based are that that the publisher and the editors of The Escapist allowed both the magazine’s website and and public forum to become forums for the expression of right-wing political views.” […]
Statements about The Escapist being Right-wing and supporting Alt-Right views were previously made by Russ Pitts shortly after he was brought back on for the relaunch of The Escapist Magazine under Enthusiast Gaming’s umbrella.
These comments were made back during the summer of 2018, which eventually led to Robert B. Marks reaching out to Enthusiast Gaming CEO, Menashe Kestenbaum, in hopes of getting Pitts to retract the statements made by The Escapist’s editor-in-chief, where Pitts claimed that before Enthusiast bought out the outlet it had become a recruitment tool for the Alt-Right, and likened the staff and the content to a breeding ground of Nazi politics.
This is ironic given that Pitts claims to be against antisemitism but broadly labeled some of the former Jewish staff of the Escapist, including Marks, as Alt-Right.
The most … interesting? abhorrent? thing I’ve noticed working for a Jewish company is how many otherwise progressive people are subtly (or not so subtly) antisemitic. https://t.co/y0tp9NPAZZ
— Problematic Russ Pitts (@russpitts) November 13, 2018
Kestenbaum was also in touch with former Escapist contributors, Liana Kerzner and Janelle Bonanno, both of whom also expressed discontent with Pitts referring to the contributors as supporters of the Alt-Right.
According to the court documents, Kestenbaum acknowledged the issues with Pitts’ comments regarding the former staff, but since Enthusiast Gaming’s IPO was supposed to go live, he felt that a public retraction would have hurt the initial public offering.
This procrastination in addressing the issue eventually led to Marks moving forward with the lawsuit. However, on November 5th, 2018, a statement from the defense was issued to Marks protesting the claims in the libel suit, with the letter stating…
“[…] the Statements [from Russ Pitts] cover the entire period between 2012 and 2018 when Defy Media or its predecessor Alloy Digital owned The Escapist. The Statements are not limited to the period between September, 2016 and September, 2017.
“The defendant therefore submits that the action be dismissed on the basis that the Statements are not about the plaintiff and do not defame the plaintiff.”
The letter also cherry picked various comments from The Escapist forum from users who used anti-Semitic phrasing and heavily criticized feminism in order to establish the narrative that misogynists and Alt-Right members frequented the forums. However, public forums allowing freedom of speech are oftentimes subject to opinions expressed by all manner people from all walks of life.
The letter also attempted to use statements made by game developers Brad Wardell, Daniel Vavra, and a few others – who pointed out how Social Justice Warriors have been attacking gamers and game developers over the years – as a way to criticize how the site allowed viewpoints that were not strictly anti-#GamerGate in its special #GamerGate feature from October 10th, 2014 that contained views from all sides of the controversy.
Furthermore, the letter does not point out where the content from The Escapist staff fit in line with Pitts’ statements about the site being a den for the Alt-Right or courting Nazism.
The only notable example in the letter regarding published content is from former Escapist Magazine editor-in-chief, Joshua Vanderwall, who wrote an article championing freedom of speech.
The document also used an excerpt from The Game Journo Pros e-mail list where former editor-in-chief at The Escapist, Greg Tito, also attempted to champion freedom of speech, which is why they didn’t censor or shut down all discussion surrounding #GamerGate that wasn’t anti-#GamerGate.
What’s more is that Marks revealed that while Enthusiast Gaming is attempting to prevaricate the situation by stating that he’s suing the wrong company – with the latest letter stating that Enthusiast Gaming Media Inc., and Enthusiast Gaming Inc., are two different companies and that Enthusiast Gaming Media Inc., doesn’t own The Escapist Magazine. However, the court documents reveal that before the motions were filed the corporate profiles for both Enthusiast Gaming Media Inc., and Enthusiast Gaming Inc., were indeed located at the exact same address, despite having two different Ontario corporation numbers.
There are definitely shades of the Calgary Expo versus the Honey Badgers that seem to be present in the current lawsuit between Robert B. Marks and Enthusiast Gaming. With the proceedings delayed up until January, 2019 due to Marks suffering from health issues, we’ll have to wait until next year to find out how the lawsuit will unfold from there.