PAX Cancels Controversial Hosts' Live Podcast, Won't Say Why [Update]

Chris Maldonado (left) and Colin Moriarty (right) during their respective appearances on Dave Rubin’s YouTube show. (Screenshot: The Dave Rubin Report, YouTube)

The Seattle gaming convention PAX West has canceled a planned live recording of the “Sacred Symbols” gaming podcast, hosted by politically controversial commentators Colin Moriarty and Chris “Ray Gun” Maldonado, that was set to take place at the show on September 2. It hasn’t yet given a reason for the cancellation, which has caused a great deal of debate since the news.

Moriarty announced the cancellation on his Twitter feed on July 31, posting a screenshot of an email from the show’s organisers. “Apologies, but we unfortunately have to remove your panel from the PAX West 2019 schedule,” the note read. “We apologise for any confusion and are happy to still issue special guest badges to you and the folks you had designated as speakers, so you will still have access to the show for all four days.”

The panel was set to take place in the Hydra theatre, one of the bigger venues at the conference. PAX West has not yet released its official schedule for the event, so it’s unclear what, if anything, will end up taking that slot.

“I suspect we were pulled for political reasons,” Maldonado told Kotaku in an email.

Moriarty and Maldonado are popular, and divisive, figures, both alternating between gaming discussion and conservative political commentary. In a 2016 music video titled “Ain’t No Rest for the Triggered,” which has over four million views on YouTube, Maldonado mocks people for being angry at things like racist Halloween costumes and misgendering transgender people. (“I could see that a man had dropped his keys… He said, ‘I’m not even a man / I’m a bigendered girl with manly tendencies,” reads one section of the lyrics.) That song, part of a Social Justice: The Musical compilation, is part of a broader anti-”SJW” brand aimed at concern-trolling people who call out sexism and racism.

A sample of some of the videos on Maldonado’s YouTube channel. (Screenshot: YouTube)

Up through 2017, Moriarty was part of Kinda Funny, a gaming media company he co-founded. He left the company after making, then defending, a joke he made on International Women’s Day about how women talk too much.

Moriarty has long espoused political views that are somewhere between conservative and libertarian. Since leaving Kinda Funny, Moriarty has done interviews on shows like Glenn Beck, Dave Rubin, and Joe Rogan.

He also created a Patreon called Colin’s Last Stand whose content is often more overtly political, like a recent anti-labour episode that criticised efforts to unionize the video game industry. He doesn’t support Donald Trump, and said in 2016 on Facebook that he left the Repblican party as a result of the President’s ascension within it (he currently supports Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard for President). Nevertheless, he often exhibits a disdain for what some call political correctness and others call progressive values. Moriarty did not respond to Kotaku’s request for comment.

“If I were a betting man, I’d say people complained that we were given a panel and PAX capitulated,” said Maldonado. “PAX won’t respond because they can’t. If a big event like PAX said, ‘We cancelled the panel because Chris and Colin are Nazis,’ (which is something I’ve seen often since the cancellation) they know it wouldn’t hold up to actual scrutiny.”

While there had been criticism of the panel on social media after it was announced, messages about it did not appear to go viral, raising questions about what exactly caused PAX West to reconsider the panel.

Moriarty had submitted a panel request to PAX West in May. On July 12, Moriarty announced the panel had been accepted and shared an email from the show with its usual boilerplate language: “Feel free to tweet/blog/podcast and let the world know you will be attending, it is by no means a secret.”

Sacred Symbols is a gaming podcast Moriarty started with Maldonado In July 2018. (Screenshot: YouTube)

A few weeks later, PAX West organisers informed him the panel was cancelled. Moriarty has Tweeted copies of other emails he says he sent asking for an explanation and requesting that the organisation reimburse his podcast and fans for any expenses associated with the cancellation. He also shared what he said was a follow-up reply from PAX West, in which it is stated: “We pride ourselves on historically not shuffling or cancelling panels last minute, but unfortunately we had to make this call after you had already verified.”

Neither PAX West, nor the event producer ReedPop, responded to requests for comment from Kotaku.

The absence of an explanation has been filled with theories about why the podcast panel was cancelled, largely centring on Moriarty and Maldonado’s politics, but also the behaviours of their fanbases. Moriarty and Maldonado have also been accused of garnering fan bases with a propensity for harassing those who the two occasionally target on Twitter or in discussions on the podcast.

“Fan bases are inherently kind of obsessive so I don’t really believe our fan base is any more toxic than any other fan base I’ve encountered,” Maldonado told Kotaku when asked about criticisms that his fan base can be toxic. Nevertheless, in an example of the kind of climate that critics of the panel were discussing, a low-profile Tweet celebrating the cancellation was quote-tweeted by Maldonado, who has over 180,000 Twitter followers, and quickly met with people calling the original poster “retarded,” “a dumb fuck,” and the “king of autism.”

The controversy seems to have had a silver lining for the pair, as Moriarty’s Patreon has received hundreds of new paying subscribers since the news of the cancellation.

Update — 12:43PM AEST: Moriarty commented to Kotaku in an email shortly after publication touching on many of the same points he previously articulated publicly regarding his suspicions about why PAX pulled the Sacred Symbols podcast panel without explanation.

“Part of the reason we think there’s such obvious silence around what happened to us, our fans, and our panel is because we are widely disliked in the industry,” Moriarty said, suggesting that those individuals, without naming who, played some part in pressuring PAX to change its mind given that the duo was flexible in accommodating any necessary logistical changes.

Moriarty also noted that he’s reimbursing some fans for the inconvenience. “And since PAX is both too chickenshit to say why our panel was removed while refusing to offer refunds to fans that feel ripped off, I’m paying for 20 people’s PAX West passes out of my own pocket,” he wrote.

“People are quick to point out how much of a financial boon this was for Chris and I, but I can speak for both of us when I say: We’d rather quietly and peacefully done our panel, met our fans, tried some games on the show floor, bought some merch, and went home. Now we know we aren’t welcome, and — as violence has been threatened at us since PAX’s cancellation should we attend — I doubt I’ll ever try to do a panel (or even go to a show) again.”

Following the panel’s cancellation, Moriarty retweeted someone who said it would be a “good thing” if people accidentally spilled milkshakes on the podcast host while he was at PAX (that person has since locked their Twitter account after being deluged with responses by Moriarty’s followers). Kotaku asked Moriarty if these were the types of violent threats he was talking about.

“People like that are exactly who I’m referring to,” he said. “When you’re called a Nazi, a bigot, a racist, a sexist, a transphobe, and a misogynist for absolutely no reason, and that kind of dehumanisation occurs for literally years, needless to say it’s probably not the safest scene out there for me right now.”


Comments

    So you dislike someone... Then proceed to actively help give them an even bigger spotlight by bitching loudly enough for the rest of the planet to hear about them?

    You are quite literally advertising for them. Good job.

      Additional note -

      For what it's worth, my comment is really about 'cancel culture' in general, less about the article and/or author.

      The article was surprisingly restrained, and given the site it's posted on I absolutely expected a fucking parade celebrating the cancellation.

        Guessing you posted before actually reading. It’s an article presented in a very unbiased manner from what I can see. It also is relevant to kotaku as it’s about gaming.

        You literally did what you called out by engaging the article. Well done.

        Ps. I like Moriarty, he made a mistake a few years back but he’s a smart guy.

          I did read the article before I posted... You apparently didn't read the comment you replied to.

          I added the second comment to be clear the initial comment wasn't directed at the article/author, but the idea of cancel culture and how people think it's a victory or such. I added that almost purely because I appreciated that the article wasn't what I have come to expect from Kotaku in situations like this.

          At no point did I say I disliked the author, and I sure wasn't trying to 'cancel' them either... But you can keep reaching all you like.

            considering they responded to the second comment and not the first I don't think they care.
            that said you are correct. this cancel culture only promotes them and makes the people advocating for it look like giant babies throwing a tantrum in a shopping centre. you got what you wanted but, everyone's annoyed and wishes you didn't.

            worse still is that just by leaving them alone I would never have known they had a panel let alone that they planned to attend.

              But many others would have known, and be denying them a platform you deny them crediblity.

              Nobody is going to be convinced to espouse the bullshit of a cancelled panel, but some might see legitimacy in lies and nonsense that is given a legitimate platform.

              Contrary to.popular belief, cancelling racist and bigoted shows doesnt make them more mainstream. It just makes the delicate snowflakes who rapidly rely on them to feel like their bigotry is justified whine louder.

              Last edited 07/08/19 12:08 am

                on the contrary, if you have to shut someone down before they speak it reeks of fear. if you fear something it means you can't face it. you can't even try to argue with it because you close your eyes and ears pretending it doesn't exist.

                The best option is to refute them. bring evidence so strong that they are wrong that it can't be denied. the problem is, that most people can't. they simply want them to disappear.

                If you can't do that, all you do is divide people further. instead of a united people all you have done is further hate and pain. Obviously you and I have very different views and I don't see kotaku doing much for either of us so I probably won't have much else to say.

    You should probably add that Moriarty is refunding people that PAX refuse to out of his own pocket, or is that not part of this particular narrative?

    a low-profile Tweet celebrating the cancellation was quote-tweeted by Maldonado, who has over 180,000 Twitter followers, and quickly met with people calling the original poster “retarded,” “a dumb fuck,” and the “king of autism.”

    Not sure what low profile has to do with anything here accept to frame this person as the victim, no mention of what this person said on twitter to incite the pairs "toxic fanbases" i wonder why.

    I have seen plenty of twitter posts that would warrant those responses and anyone pretending different is not honest enough to bother listening to.

    Still considering the politics of Ethan and his stance on milkshakes and de-platforming this is refreshingly close to fair and unbiased. Right up till the end where he left out the context of an altercation on twitter by omitting one sides transgression so he could try and prove the "toxic fanbase" theory. Overall though it's better than usual

      @alexwalker

      can you please fix this moderation drama for me i am being left permanently in "awaiting moderation", sometimes i can't vote on comments or even post comments.

      i realise that the mods don't like what i have to say but considering the other crap they let skate on here the least they could do is not stick me in some unending censorship limbo.

    Pax have really put themselves in a sticky situation with this mystery cancelation. We’re they just hoping no one would notice, or ask questions?

    Would be nice if we could eliminate all politics from gaming.

    I realise you can't ever remove all aspects but there was a time where it didn't envelop every conceivable inch of our lives.
    It's become like the lamest game of dodge ball ever where the two sides took turns picking their teams from every issue, problem and facet of society.
    There's no bounds so the game happens everywhere, everybody aims for the face, nobody takes an out and you don't really get a choice to play or not.

    Chris Raygun's controversial? Really? Since when?

    Moriarty sure, but Raygun? Naaaah.

      The article literally links to two Chris Raygun twitter posts that take an unapologetic position on a particular side of controversial culture war issues.

        Cool, but it makes him opinionated, not necessarily 'controversial'. I've followed Raygun for a long time amongst others. He's hardly a controversial subject out there. I find it somewhat comforting seeing people being 'unapologetic' these days with their opinions, not being swayed to give fake apologies in order to placate the masses.

          Funnily enough, my comment stating that having opinions was "controversial" these days, was deemed "inappropriate" and promptly deleted... Further proving exactly what I just said.

          Thought police out in force. Look forward to this one being deleted

          It's controversial because the topics he is voicing opinions on are self-evidentally controvertial, as you are well aware based on how willing you are to hammer the comments every single time these topics come up.

          The fact that you don't think personally that these issues should be controversial is an entirely different and unrelated topic of discussion.

            You seem very personally vested in attacking me there. But no I don't agree at all. He's made a few videos and he's opinionated but he's not a controversial figure that people generally get wound up over. Were it Keemstar? Quartering? Sure. Raygun? Nope.

              @weresmurf You caught me out. I am specifically here to attack you personally. It's not at all the case that I just popped down to comments and felt an impulse to correct someone who was saying something silly.

                If he is "controversial" because the topics he comments on are "controversial" then ANYONE who voices an opinion in support or against the topic is controversial.

                In your comment, you made reference to two tweets of his that make him "controversial". One of them, him linking a Huffpost article stating that white people who stand during the national anthem support white supremacy

                But I dare say you wouldn't call the "journalist" claiming that white people who stand during the American anthem are in support of white supremacy, controversial, would you?

                Commenting an opinion on a controversial topic does not make you inherently controversial, otherwise, and I'll reiterate it, everyone, regardless of what you believe to be true, is controversial

    as violence has been threatened at us since PAX’s cancellation

    Before anyone laughs at the idea of milkshakes, they've been used recently by people, with the assholes pouring quick drying cement in them. When contacting skin, this is incredibly caustic, causing burns and other ongoing long term damage. If you're that rare individual (and those individuals are rare, but they're out there) who are ok with acidic substance being thrown in someones face, no matter your political leaning, I just don't know what to say about your sociopathic life values...

      The best part is, this article is clearly calling the canvases of these people "toxic", yet here we have yet another example of the #loveislove #tolerant camp openly threatening violence against people they disagree with...

        Fanbases* not canvases...

        Would edit, but you know

    Never heard of these guys before.

    Watched a couple of videos on their channel and enjoyed them. Would have never heard of them if not for Pax and their shitty decision.

    Cancel culture is cancer to our society.

    Worth Noting Jessica Price (Yes that Jessica price, The loon who was fired from ArenaNet for abusing a customer) is on the committee that curates the panels that are accepted to Pax.

    So there is a possible bias in this incident.

    I'm a concreter I've had everything from postmix to mortar and quick dry cement on my skin for hours before washing it off and nothing, no burns no long lasting injuries, maybe there is a difference between American and Australian.

    Now my personal opinion on milkshaking is that it is assualt and people who do it are pieces of shit same as "egg boy".

    I said back when "egg boy" was getting praised that even though the politician (can't remember his name) got egged that this will happen again and that if we allow it to become the norm it will escalate.

    I believe they are lacing "milkshakes" with other substances maybe components that go into cement like Lime, but if they are throwing bottles and rocks it's really not a stretch for them to throw acid in peoples faces.

      The whole egg boy thing astounds me. The people championing him would be calling for the head of the person who would do that to a politician they align with.

      The hypocrisy of those people who espouse "tolerance", "peace" and "love" in the name of progressive ideology absolutely astounds me

        Exactly.

        Make no mistake. Fraser Anning is an utter dropkick and a garbage human being. But what happened to him is still assault

          That's a fair call. I had a laugh at what happened to him, but after reconsideration of my initial stance, I was very wrong in it, and I absolutely acknowledge that. What's good for the goose *must* be good for the gander. It's the same as free speech, if I say both sides must tolerate each others rights, I must seek the right for justice for both sides with eggboy.

          That being said, the wankers that pushed a tiny 15 year old to the ground like that and kept going him when they realised how little he was compared to them, are still utter tosspots.

            They were his goose-stepping brown shirts.

            One of them is a wanted criminal in NSW.

      Absolutely, that's all entirely possible. But either way, throwing any shit in someones face is always a reprehensible act. The idiotic method of assaulting someone is never going to end well for people, then they throw their hands in the air and wonder why people treat them they way they do...

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