Imad speaks to Insider’s Steven Asarch about Ryan “gootecks” Gutierrez about being removed as the pogchamp emote on Twitch following his comments about the Capitol insurrection.
SPEAKERS: Imad Khan, Steven Asarch
Imad Khan 00:01
What’s up everybody this is FTW with Imad Khan. I am Imad Khan of Tom’s guide and joining me today on this Insurrection is Not Poggers edition is Insiders, internet culture reporter and executive producer of Onision In Real Life on Discovery Plus is Steven Asarch
Steven Asarch 00:14
Imad Khan 00:15
After the rate of the capital by pro Trump supporters on January 6, professional Street Fighter player and the face behind the pug champ emote on Twitch, Ryan “gootecks” Gutierrez tweeted his anger over the death of 35 year old Ashli Babbitt. He said, quote, “will there be civil unrest for the woman who was executed inside the Capitol today? Or will the #MAGA Martyr die in vain,” end quote. The implication here being that there was mass nationwide protests for the murder of George Floyd, who was suffocated to death during a traffic stop by a police officer, and Babbitt, who was attempting to climb through the broken glass door of the speaker’s lobby. Twitch seeing this as an incitement to violence and a call to arms against US government. In a Twitter post said, quote, “we’ve made the decision to remove the Pog Champ emote following statements from the face of the mode encouraging further violence after what took place in the Capitol today,” end quote. Twitch has decided to keep the idea of the mode alive, however, and instead of finding one new face for Pog instead, every 24 hours, a new face will rotate in for Twitch. So Steven, Gutierrez is a prominent member of the esports space, do you think this tweet has effectively canceled him?
Steven Asarch 01:21
I don’t believe in the idea of being canceled. But I think he is not going to continue to be a member of the FGC. I mean, over the past few years, he’s pretty much lessened his content and disappeared from the mainstream light. But this tweet is essentially bad and will keep him away from any and all future Twitch stuff. Like he has spent the latter half of 2020 spreading COVID-19, misinformation, and outright conspiracy theories. So it’s kind of hard to take him seriously when all of this is happening. And he’s saying all of these things that don’t make any sense. But, you know, he’s he’s pretty much disappeared from the mainstream limelight. And his legacy was the Pog Champ emote, which was a random face he made in a random video, that has stuck with him throughout his entire career. This won’t be you know.
Imad Khan 02:29
I mean, you know, when you say I’m trying to, like, try to figure out exactly what threw him down this realm of conspiratoria. I noticed that, you know, he started a YouTube channel back in the day called Cross-Counter TV, which was uploading semi-regularly, you know, got decent amount of views. And then he started a paid service Corss-Counter. And I was looking at its Twitter feed, and Tim, that sometime in the summer of last year, they stopped posting altogether. So I don’t know if his kind of reversion into the dark parts the internet has to do with maybe his side business kind of crumbling?
Steven Asarch 03:03
You can’t figure out how someone goes extremist. It’s just going to end up youth you being confused and everyone having misinformation. When it comes to online extreme is, you start off with fairly small innocuous con innocuous content that people might not, you know, care much about, you know, simple gaming stuff. But you could say words that people shouldn’t say because SJW is and whatnot. You slowly go down the rabbit hole, like we don’t, we don’t know gootecks’ his personal life or what he’s personally been through. So there’s no way of knowing how he got into this extremist lifestyle. But it’s it’s clear that like, over the past year, he’s definitely gone into hyperdrive when it came to accepting these weird conspiracy theories that aren’t necessarily sound in logic and mind.
Imad Khan 03:57
Hmm, you know, I he was on a Twitch stream. I can’t remember when but I saw a bit of the VOD, in which there were a bunch of people on this panel, and he ended up going off on this tangent about how vaccines were a scheme by Bill Gates, you know, us as a means of population control. And you know why that’s exactly why, you know, he was very anti vaccine. And it was kind of difficult to watch for the other streamers because they obviously don’t want to, they know that they’re streaming to a large audience. So they don’t want to be responsible or say, say anything really. I don’t I don’t think controversial is right word, but definitely irresponsible. So they were all kind of awkwardly trying to figure out how they could pull themselves out of this situation or revert the conversation into a more positive message that vaccines are generally considered safe and would be the responsible thing to do. I mean, but then again, Twitch itself has been kind of there corners of Twitch that I’ve been getting into weird conspiracy theories, and is Twitch going to be the place where The likes of Alex Jones or these other conspiracy theorists jumped to?
Steven Asarch 05:05
No, it will not become a home for Alex Jones and extreme conspiracy conspiracy content. Because Twitch is fairly strict when it comes to terms of service when it comes to acts of extreme violence and rhetoric. They’re very poor at enforcing those rules amongst the entirety of its group. But if you have a clip where you say something incredibly wrong and full of misinformation, or just outright racist or homophobic, then your entire channel is most likely going to get if not a strike at, you know, if not take it down at least a strike. I think Twitch is better than some of the other alternatives, though, the alternatives being DLive, which recently had to ban Nick Fuentes, and a few other extremists who were live streaming at the Capitol. So as long as those beacons of quote-unquote, you know, free speech exist, then I don’t see Twitch becoming that big of an issue. Twitch cares a lot about its brand. It’s tied to Amazon. It’s the gaming space. They can’t afford to have it, you know, completely muddied by controversial content creators that are spreading misinformation and or inciting violence.
Imad Khan 06:30
You know, the FGC has been kind of going through a reckoning at least this past year, I mean, the entire Smash Bros. community was caught embroiled in a flurry of scandals regarding sexual misconduct, especially with minors. And it seems that the response in those situations, and I’m not trying to necessarily conflate the two, but in those situations was to essentially push this certain personality or streamer out of the community and effectively ban them. Do you feel that gootecks I mean, with the Street Fighter community tried to essentially help him and try to get him back into the mainstream, or is the idea instead just, let’s completely shun this person out.
Steven Asarch 07:10
It’s not a shutting thing, or kick them out sort of thing. He hasn’t really embraced the FGC side of things in a while. He’s a conspiracy theory guy now who spreads misinformation. He’s not a fighting game player anymore. He’s moved past what was his brand, which was pogchamp, and you know, playing Street Fighter with his friends, as the years have gone on, you know, he’s been a content creator, for what, almost almost a decade, if not over a decade, like people change. He’s not the same guy that was making faces and playing with Pogs and YouTube videos. He’s a different human being. And, you know, for better or worse, this is who he is. So I don’t see the FGC accepting him as, as part of the community and bringing him back into the fold. The FTC already has enough issues dealing with predators and other controversial members of communities.
Imad Khan 08:10
But it I mean, I know we’re starting to like pull ourselves a little bit out of the Twitch conversation. And I guess this will be my last question regarding this specific topic. But you know, it’s of the of a poll I’ve done of the interaction that happened on the sixth 47% of Republicans, at least, you know, Republican voters said it was fine or is good. And 47% thought it was illegal. That’s still a good chunk of the US population that is falling prey to the types of things that they’re reading online. And the, you know, the idea is that it’s an it’s espousing. So I mean, some kind of reconciliation needs to be done because that many people area of society simply cannot function as, uniformly if that many people believe that it just doesn’t function or it’s not worth engaging in at all, because it’s some kind of fraud or scam.
Steven Asarch 09:02
Yeah, we have a large portion of the American population who believe in conspiracy theories and not in reality, who’ve listened to the rhetoric of the politicians and President over and over and over and they’ve created this false version of what the world actually existed, where voter fraud is massive, and the DNC is involved with pizza gate, and all these other conspiracy theories that don’t actually make any sense when you look at the facts. When you let misinformation like this go unchecked, the largest, you know, right-leaning people who are against, you know, getting banned on larger platforms are like they’re crushing our free speech, and we have no way to speak up for ourselves. But in reality, if you’re spreading misinformation, and you’re spreading lies, you need to be held accountable. Right now, I believe so having social media platforms, be the arbiters to decide what is fair and what isn’t, isn’t good. And there should be a better system put in place either governmentally or you know, worldwide. But we’re not there yet. Social media platforms have too much power. And the only thing that holds them accountable is when bad things happen. So, with all these accounts getting banned, and all these people disappearing onto other social media sites, their reach gets less. And hopefully, people can come out of the conspiracy theory net that they have caught themselves into, because it’s not easy to get out of. When you get caught up in, you know, OAN, Newsmax conspiracy theories, it’s it’s hard to get out.
Imad Khan 10:35
You know, as somebody I mean, when I was in high school, I became enthralled by the idea of like, 9/11 conspiracy theories. And looking back, you know, especially with like, 12 years of hindsight, I feel like the reason I was caught up in that is because it gave a very simplistic answer to a very complicated world, right? And when answers are so enticing, and when the entire world can be like, boiled down to this one simple explanation, I can see why it is intoxicating.
Steven Asarch 11:05
Yeah, it’s, it’s a lot easier to believe that the world is just full of George Soros vampires, and that everything is simple black and white and evil and good. It’s, it’s simplistic. It’s, you know, not understanding the nuances that our reality is built upon. Some people would rather just accept the world is simple, and that these people are bad. And these people are good, but it’s a lot more complicated than that. And when you look at gootecks, and the, you know, amount in the platform that he’s he’s been able to maintain. He’s just another one of those people caught up in the conspiracy world that got led astray.
Imad Khan 11:48
You know, I think something kind of related to this. Is that representative Madison, Madison Cawthorne, let me see of North Carolina, I believe. He is co sponsoring a bill that would amend section 230 of, of the First Amendment protections for big tech platforms. And I think what he’s trying to do is that he’s trying to limit the ability of tech platforms to essentially kick people off, although I don’t think he’s necessarily interpreting the the statute correctly, because the Section A section 230 is essentially absolves platform holders from content that their posters post, right? So if you post something illegal, it’s not Twitter’s fault that you posted it. But I think the implication that he’s trying to get out here is that there’s some kind of free speech issue on the social media platforms, and that it needs to be somehow relegated through section 230. But I feel like this type of stuff from politicians just as kind of feeding the beast, in a sense, and I can see how somebody maybe like a gootecks or whatever, you could say like, you know, it’s the the world order or whatever, that’s limiting conservative talking points.
Steven Asarch 13:02
I it’s it’s probably misinformation and lies that limit Republican and conservative talking points to the most. The fact that they’re not built on logic or facts. They’re built on, what about ism and strawman arguments? That’s the biggest problem when it comes to dealing with that sort of stuff and accepting it. I don’t believe any of the, you know, so called fixes to Section 230 to, you know, bring the First Amendment is a good idea. I think, you know, these these platforms are unfortunately, they need, they need better oversight than just getting rid of the rules that already exists. There needs to be something more concrete and something more robust, that fixes it, rather than just like allowing God, these things from never being banned. Because like, you have your first amendment right, but what where does that go? Can Can I say, I want to, you know, hurt somebody on Twitter, or does that break my first amendment right? What what exactly is the is, is the barrier or the limit when it comes to that stuff.
Imad Khan 14:05
And you know, these social media platforms sit in this weird space, where they’re private companies that also host a public forum. And there’s actually a thing called the public forum doctrine. So that this actually happened with the US military when it was streaming on Twitch and started taking down comments that were critical of it. Essentially, the public forum doctrine said, if the military is using this specific platform as a way to reach people, it can’t suddenly start to tear down dissent against it, like that is an infringement on the posters, the other posters first amendment rights of free speech. So it social media companies are in this kind of bizarre in between. And I feel that legislation is still trying to maybe catch up with like the proper set of rules on how best to enforce social media in the realm of like crazy conspiracy theories and I’d say we’re at the same time like the military or the government can also use social media as a platform does spread like good and necessary information ,whether it be, ‘hey vaccines or an area.’ But I do want to jump on to the future of pogchamp and it seems that what Twitch is doing is that they’re essentially rotating in every 24 hours a new face for pog. This seems like a very good idea I have nothing but good things to say. What about you?
Steven Asarch 15:29
Yeah, why not? Why not go for it you know, popchamp means something to Twitch. It doesn’t mean, you know, necessarily gootecks. It’s it’s a part of twitches identity, you know, Poggers, pogchamp. These are all signs of happiness and ecstasy. So why not continue the trend? This is this is the best way twitch could have done it. You know, it gives them a PR win, while also allowing the community to continue doing whatever the hell is they do with pogchamp?
Imad Khan 16:02
Well, that Steven, thank you so much for jumping on.
Steven Asarch 16:05
Thank you for having me.
Imad Khan 16:06
And that was FTW with Imad Khan. If you liked the show, please rate, subscribe and share. Full transcripts and links to our Patreon can be found at ftwimad.com. To follow Steven and all the work he’ll be doing at insider you can follow him @iamasarch on Twitter. To follow me and my work over at Tom’s Guide, Follow me @imad on Twitter. And Ron Lyons is our audio producer. With that, we’ll catch you guys next week.