This is not a fun article to write. This weekend, Internet personality and content creator for Polygon, Nick Robinson, was suspended from Polygon pending a Vox Media inquiry after allegations of sexual harassment were leveled against him via Twitter.
Robinson’s rise to fame comes from his collaborations with the McElroy brothers, particularly “everybody’s favorite baby brother, media luminary, Forbes 30 Under 30″ Griffin McElroy. It’s through these collaborations I learned about Nick. I loved “Car Boys”: the YouTube series wherein McElroy and Robinson blew up cars and messed with the space-time continuum. I also enjoyed episodes of “Touch the Skyrim”. The latter was McElroy’s attempt to either a) mod Skyrim until the game broke or b) make Nick enjoy it.
And that’s why these allegations are so troubling. The McElroy family’s content, ranging from podcasts like My Brother, My Brother, and Me to The Adventure Zone and YouTube series like “Monster Factory” or “Peacecraft”, relies heavily on one key element: they’re Very Good Boys. The McElroys seem committed to providing unproblematic content that doesn’t rely on sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. to be funny.
It is a noble attempt, though lately the McElroy family has ended up in increasingly hot water. Travis McElroy’s co-host of Interrobang, Tybee, said the F-slur and N-word on the podcast. The comic book adaptation of The Adventure Zone has been called out for its antisemitic art – which was supposedly drawn that way to avoid the issue that Justin’s character, Taako, was created with the joke of a (presumably white) elf inventing tacos.
Still, the small, but very, very tight-knit McElroy fandom was shocked to hear the allegations made against Robinson.
They started coming in after Robinson had attacked an indie game developer’s customer service on Twitter. He received an automated email and a request to film the problem he was having with his Nintendo Switch. Thus, he complained. A lot.
The Tweets unleashed a slurry of people commenting on his creepy behavior. Many acknowledged that they were aware of Nick’s behavior, but afraid to come forward.
i guess overcooked didn't send nudes
— ali [MIKE MEEKINS RESPECT ZONE] (@ali_west) August 3, 2017
The meme spells out “SEND NUDES” no matter what angle you look at it from. From his reply of “what wrong” it’s clear that Robinson had no idea this behavior was inappropriate. Considering that Robinson is an adult man whose platform comes from a stance of being a “feminist ally”, that’s pretty upsetting.
I’ll be honest with you all – I believe that these allegations against Robinson are true. I’m not saying this to “hurt” anyone or “damage careers”. I think it’s important for me to use this platform to say: I’m always going to believe a potential victim. I’d rather put my faith in a potential victim than a potential abuser.
And it sucks to do that with someone you admired, found funny, or generally enjoyed. It’s happened more times than I can count. Having these spaces we consider “safe” be violated is awful. It’s horrible. In a perfect world, we would never have to deal with it.
But here’s the thing I want people to consider: if you feel violated and twisted up inside just reading about the idea that someone has broken your safe space and been abusive towards another… consider how the victim feels. That sense of violation only magnifies when it’s happening to you, not just around you.
Now, I’ve written before about why bystander intervention in places where sexual abuse is taking place matters. But it’s hard in the gaming community.
Being vocal about sexual harassment and violence against women in the gaming community can lead to death threats, doxxing, and a veritable metric shit-ton of abuse from thousands of men online for so much as daring to be a woman in “their” space. Just ask Zoë Quinn.
If you’re not a man in the gaming community, you’re not safe. It’s impossible to use bystander privilege. Attacks on one woman can easily be leveled against another woman or gender non-conforming person.
I am happy to say that I’ve been impressed with the Polygon team’s quick response to these allegations.
Polygon Editor In Chief Chris Grant tweeted on Friday night that Robinson had been suspended, pending an investigation into the allegations by Vox Media. I don’t know what that investigation will turn up. In many cases, abusers face no consequences. Action that is taken against abusers is punitive and minimal. But the bar is currently so low that it’s a relief to at least be able to report an investigation.
Giant Bomb‘s Ben Pack also took to Twitter to speak out in defense of the women coming forward with allegations against Robinson.
and they especially should not be urged to "come forward" unless they are ready to do so.
— Ben "Ben Pack" Pack (@PackBenPack) August 4, 2017
One of Robinson’s Podburglars co-hosts, Matt Kessler, tweeted to say he was done with the show and would be distancing himself from Robinson as well.
Additionally, Griffin McElroy took to Twitter to make a statement expressing his shock and anger. He also urged people to give the victims respect and privacy.
and please respect the privacy of the folks directly involved; like smarter folks than I have said, quit asking for receipts.
— Griffin's Cool 2018 Tweets (@griffinmcelroy) August 5, 2017
I’ll end with this: the bar cannot be any lower. The fact that I’m pleased to see a handful of measly tweets saying things like oh wow, this is bad from men close to Robinson is not a good thing.
We need to do better.