The lawsuit involving The Escapist continues to unfold with more court documents being unveiled. They certainly don’t reveal Russ Pitts in the best of light, especially regarding stories of him having just “fingerbanged a fat chick” and also his pointed erasure of the achievements made by female journalists at The Escapist during his original tenure there as editor-in-chief.
Robert B. Marks has been consistently attempting to settle the issue with The Escapist’s parent company, Enthusiast Gaming, regarding defaming remarks made by editor-in-chief Russ Pitts, but so far the company has declined. For those of you not in the know, Pitts attempted to conflate all Right-wing ideologies with Nazism, and claimed that the former staff members of The Escapist helped turn it into a recruitment tool for the “Alt-Right”.
Obviously, former staff – many of whom classify as Leftists or Liberals – took umbrage with Pitts’ comments, and Robert B. Marks filed a defamation suit against Enthusiast Gaming to have the comments retracted back in August of 2018.
Two additional documents were recently released, featuring the affidavits from Marks, and one from former editor-in-chief at The Escapist, Joshua Vanderwall. You can view Marks’ document here or you can view Vanderwall’s document here.
Marks recounts everything leading up to the current situation involving the lawsuit, as well as the harm that could be incurred to his career for being labeled as a member of the “Alt-Right” or having an association with “Nazis”, even though he’s Jewish. Whereas Vanderwall details a bit more about Pitts’ behavior while at The Escapist and the abuse that allegedly took place under his watch.
In Vanderwall’s affidavit, section 13 through 15 outlines how Christian Russel Fletcher a.k.a., Russ Pitts, has had a history of erasing the achievements of females, where it states…
“[…] Fletcher has a documented history of erasing women from games and taking credit for their accomplishments, for lack of his own. Claming “I won” six webby awards at The Escapist, entirely erasing Julianne Capps, the first Editor in Chief of the site, and first woman to be EIC of a major gaming site, so he can take credit for her accomplishments.
“Fletcher has also erased Janelle Bonanno Vanderwall – a founder of the Take This charity – from the charity’s history. Janelle was Executive Director during the creation of the organization, and was the one that incorporated the charity.
“She had an incredibly serious surgery, resulting in PTSD and other mental health issues. As a result of her mental health preventing her from resuming her role, Fletcher and Mrs. Fletcher opted to simply erase her from the charity’s history, despite the stated purpose of Take This being a mental health advocacy organization. In addition to erasing Janelle as a founder, Fletcher created a documentary about Take This. Janelle was neither consulted nor included in any way.
“Fletcher’s sworn statements make extensive references to a series of interviews published under Greg Tito called ‘Male Developers Think of #Gamergate’ including extensive text from five separate men. There was a second series of interviews, ‘What Female Developers Think of #Gamergate’ every woman therein Fletcher fails to acknowledge at all.”
This is true.
Pitts completely skipped over the content, which is still published on the site. The feature was originally published on September 24th, 2018 along with the other feature containing interviews with male game developers.
Much like how Pitts ignored the accomplishments of female journalists, Vanderwall also notes that Pitts had a tendency of foregoing diversity despite claiming to be a champion of it. In the affidavit, it states that Vanderwall attempted to bring in a number of diverse content contributors, opposite of Pitts…
“In contrast, looking at Fletcher’s first announced contributors; MovieBob, Grey Carter, Shamus Young, and Yahtzee, it’s just a collection of white guys. Very much like his co-founding of Polygon, another collection of white men talking about diversity.
“Additionally, racial or cultural diversity – again, something you’ll find lacking in virtually all of Fletcher’s work – was important to me, as I know of the difficulties minorities often find in getting work in ‘Games Journalism,’ as well as the value of a unique perspective in an industry dominated by people like Fletcher’s teams of white men.
“When I solicited a feature from Oliver Campbell, a black gamer who had once supported Gamergate, I was inundated with hateful comments about letting him write, all from the very people, like Fletcher, claiming to champion minorities and diversity in games.”
It’s true that Pitts’ initial crew for rebooting The Escapist did not include females or minorities, according to the leaked chat logs.
Also, while minorities and women may have been erased from the history of Fletcher’s history books, Vanderwall notes that one of the very first things that Russ Pitts had mentioned to him during their first run-in back in 2004, where it’s mentioned in the affidavit…
“In 14 years, Fletcher is emblazoned in my memory as the worst office bully I ever came to encounter. The first words Fletcher ever said to me, while exceedingly intoxicated at a company event shortly after he started at the company, chuckling, he said, “Hey, smell my finger, I just fingerbanged a fat chick!” Disgusted, I said nothing and walked away.”
He also recounts how Pitts would constantly emotionally abuse staff with intimidation tactics, and constantly referenced owning a firearm, which Vanderwall claims made people at the office uncomfortable. He mentions that Pitts brought in and hung up a shooting target, even though it made others in the office uneasy.
The abuse and threatening nature described by Vanderwall was also highlighted by Marks in his affidavit as well.
Marks also points out that the entire archive of Garwulf’s Corner, the column he contributed to The Escapist while he was there, has been deleted. An old archive from November 27th, 2018 reveals that it was wiped out either at the tail end of November or at some point throughout December. He points back to tweets made by Pitts on September 3rd, 2018 where he claims that he will “end your shit” if you mess with him or his wife.
The thing a lot of people don’t realize about my wife and I is that we’re mostly nice and/or accommodating not because we’re rubes, but because it costs us nothing. That said, either one of us can and will end your shit if you fuck with ours. https://t.co/IXRim1vTsm
— Problematic Russ Pitts (@russpitts) September 3, 2018
Obviously it’s not clear if this was in relation to Marks originally seeking legal action against Enthusiast Gaming for the comments Pitts made about the former staff of The Escapist, or if Pitts was just shooting off on social media, but those comments were made a month after Marks initially claimed he was filing a lawsuit against Pitts in August of 2018, for attempting to conflate the former staff with Nazism, and on September 2nd, 2018, just a day before Pitts’ tweet, an e-mail notice was sent to Pitts’ counsel that demanded a cease and desist of the defamatory remarks that Pitts had made toward the staff.
Since then Pitts has deleted thousands of tweets from his account, likely in an attempt to prevent people from using his tweets as evidence against him in the case. This is all assuming that no settlement is reached and things proceed forward after the holidays in early 2019.
(Main image courtesy of Moehill Mountain)