as-howarth asked: Hey John, what is your reaction to the news that the Riverside district has chosen to ban TFIOS from middle school libraries on the grounds that it deals with mortality and sex? I remember your reactions to similar situations concerning your books have been pretty animated and wondered what you thought?
I guess I am both happy and sad.
I am happy because apparently young people in Riverside, California will never witness or experience mortality since they won’t be reading my book, which is great for them.
But I am also sad because I was really hoping I would be able to introduce the idea that human beings die to the children of Riverside, California and thereby crush their dreams of immortality.
All college students can relate
So I didn’t make any official statement about Sam Pepper until today because I had a feeling that he was up to what I refer to as “shenanigans.” I figured that if I posted something and then he threw a curve ball, it would make whatever I said feel empty because it would have been condemning him for something he didn’t do. Then I’d have to post ANOTHER thing and who knows what that thing would say because I didn’t know what sort of shenanigans he was up to.
But of course I needed to say something so I just said “Anyone sexually harassing people in YouTube videos won’t be allowed at VidCon” which is not Sam-specific and also a policy that I am happy to enforce no matter what creator is in question.
Sam successfully hoodwinked us all (at least it seems so, as Sam is stating that those women agreed to be in the video) and so all of the conversations we had about whether it’s OK for him to grab women’s butts in the street (obviously not) are now invalid because they agreed to have their butts grabbed before the cameras started rolling.
Which is why sometimes you see me not responding immediately when something upsetting or odd is happening in the YouTube community. Not all information travels at the same speed. (Though, to be clear, I’m very pleased the YouTube community reacted in a concerted and open way to Sam’s video.)
Oh, and also, Sam says that it was all just an elaborate experiment with the goal of bringing to light the unspoken issue of abused men.
To be clear, I am in favor of discussing abuse of both men and women.
And for further clarity, Sam Pepper is still not welcome at VidCon. When the first video in question went live, I was immediately linked to several other videos of Sam Pepper harassing and abusing women. He handcuffs himself to strangers in the street…one of them, he says he won’t release until she kisses him, which she does.
He lassos them, he kisses them while they’re talking without ANY form of consent, he generally puts women in awkward situations and then takes advantage of the power imbalance granted to him by his gender and / or his status for “comedy” …I guess.
Now it is entirely possible that ALL of Sam’s videos in which he harasses women feature actors who have agreed to be in the video, and that the videos are just vile sketch comedy. However, all of those videos in which he didn’t get called out for harassing women were never responded to and never part of a broader social experiment to shed light on some important topic.
They simply sit there on Sam’s channel, showing young people that it’s OK for men to force themselves on women for a laugh…or worse.
I’m not going to guess about whether Sam really had parts 2 and 3 planned when he made “Part 1.” Whether or not he planned this to bring light to an issue that affected his friend or not, it was still in extremely poor taste in the vein of “let’s film ourselves pretending to beat a dog to shed light on issues of animal cruelty.”
But his previous track record shows a complete disregard for the impact of his videos on the world, and even if he is not abusing women in his videos (which it seems quite clear that he is) he is certainly perpetuating a culture of abuse that doesn’t mind when women are forced into submission for a laugh…as long as the cameras are rolling…