Author: Gabriel Persechino-Forest Published: May 17th, 2018
This segment is going to be different than previous entries as it seems there was a bit of a controversy in the UK over a series of articles I wrote and a podcast that mentioned them and discussed the same topics as well. I waited up until now to make this article because I was gathering data and statements on the incident and I am making this article to try and clarify the events that unfolded throughout this controversy.
First lets start by catching everyone up; I made a series of five articles detailing what I believe to be the early beginnings of an AnimeGate. These articles went viral on certain parts of the internet and as a result of interest in this situation I started these AnimeGate Update segments. Here are the five articles in question:
Some time after their publication, UK Anime Network did a podcast, the second half of which discusses the articles in question and more broadly, the issues of politicisation of art and its potential impact on anime. Below I will provide the podcast in question so those interested can catch up on what exactly was said before we go any further:
Important Notice: This podcast was removed from UK Anime Network, where it was originally posted, due to the controversy it caused. The staff and owners of UK Anime Network no longer support this podcast and I am reposting it so we can have the basic information necessary to know what exactly the controversy was about and why.
Relevant section starts at 28:10 min. then goes on until the end.
Image Source: Taken from the anime series Gate
Note: This podcast is reposted with the authorisation of UK Anime Network and the individuals who made it.
My articles, the one listed above, were linked to on the podcast’s page as reference. There was also a link to a One Angry Gamer article who was also tackling the issues brought by my articles:
Now that everyone’s caught up, lets dig into the meat of this mess. After the podcast was released, some drama unfolded in forums and on social media. A couple of days later, around half the writers and other staff members of UK Anime Network left the site over the issue. I contacted Ross and Seb and they agreed to shed some light over the issue (I will be quoting their statements throughout this article as well):
In terms of writers, about half walked out and were extremely vocal/upset. That’s not to say everyone felt the same way, we had a lot of the writers at a loss as to what the fuss was about, but it was clear some of them had a personal investment or interest in the sites they felt we criticised and this generated a conflict of interest for them. Others simply objected to the topic being raised at all, and some thought it was just handled poorly and didn’t want to be associated with the site any longer. Everyone was polite at the time at least.
I have been disappointed with the departure of many members of the staff following the podcast. It was unfortunately not our best work and we have been heavily criticised for our use of articles which we didn’t full research and merely commented on. I have issued an apology and so have Ross following the poor editorial judgement in this case.
As for the writers in question, bellow are some samples of what these individuals had to say at the time:
Originally posted by Martin:
In light of a recent podcast & its aftermath, after careful consideration I’m stepping back from involvement with the UK Anime site. I understand & respect the decision of the members who left/will leave, & hope to stay in touch with everyone (as individuals)
I do not condone unwarranted attacks on other sites/people in the fan community. I do not condone regressive political views. I do not wish to be associated with those views.
Maintaining personal connections in your 30s is hard enough without bigotry, hypocrisy, infighting & avoidable misunderstandings. From here on in, I’m keeping a safe, respectful distance from the controversy & bad feeling to stay on the best possible terms with everyone.
Originally posted by Robert H Mullarkey:
After careful consideration over the past day or so I’ve decided to stop writing for UK-Anime.
I want to thank everyone over the years who helped me on the site. Everyone who read my reviews and would like to thank them for all the opportunities they gave me
Following all the drama that unfolded internally, the podcast was taken down and changes were made to the website which included Ross Liversidge stepping down as Editor in Chief (Ross is the one whose opinion on the podcast ignited this controversy) and being replaced by Sebastian Reid. Sebastian then made a Statement on the website’s forums. He also explained to me what steps they have taken:
While Ross is no longer editor, he is still our publisher as Etharius owns the site, assets and the server. And while some in the readership are asking him to completely remove himself following a stray comment and criticism, this isn’t possible. But he has decided to leave all editorial and content responsibility to a new team lead by myself.
The drama wasn’t over though. Andrew Partridge, founder of UK anime distribution company Anime Limited, decided to take his grievances with the podcast to Twitter:
Originally posted by Andrew Partridge:
Extremely disappointed by
@ukanime’s latest podcast, removing it is fine and well but I won’t be visiting it again anytime soon for numerous reasons in it. From a business point of view it was devoid of accuracy and worse reeked of bitterness at other sites biz models.
The initial tweet resulted in an exchange between Andrew and UK Anime Network (In which Ross used the website’s account) which you can read here. For a further read, staff members and forum members at Anime UK News also took issue with the incident and made their thoughts clear in a thread on their website. That same thread also discusses their criticism of my own articles. The thread is here.
Within the same UK Anime Network thread where the earlier statement was made, the new editor in chief made his stance clear on how he would handle political content in the future:
Originally posted by Sebastian Reid:
The apology was made by Ross while he was EIC and was after the content was taken down. I will state that I, as the new EIC, am sorry that the opinions within the content caused offence and for the poor quality of the content and it is the policy of the website going forward that content of this nature will not be presented.
In terms of UKA going forwards, I am reviewing some community standards for reviewing and editorials…
Ross Liversidge also made a public statement (Within the same thread linked to above):
Originally posted by Ross Liversidge:
To be clear, this is not a one-sided issue. I’ve had plenty of emails, comments on twitter etc that fail to see what the fuss is about. It’s that support that encouraged me to set up something away from UKA where I can speak freely. I am not personally going to be gagged or run out of the community. UKA should stay neutral in all things however, and I crossed a line which alienated some of UKA’s audience. I regret that.
I will not be adding content to UKA in future. I was not asked to go, I took the decision for the sake of the site and because of the arguments the podcast caused internally. There were some that wanted me to stay, but friendships have been ruined by this and I felt it was the correct and responsible course of action for a clean break.
Regarding the podcast, the material was not well-handled, the intent of the podcast was mired in some ill-informed comments that were my own. It was this failure of editorial I resigned over in order to take full responsibility, not my underlying argument. I am very clear on my personal political leanings, some of you are offended because they do not match your own. That is life I’m afraid.
UKA has always been run for the community. Nobody has the right to make demands of it or anyone who writes for it.
For clarity, my personal opinion is that I want no politics of any type shoe-horned into anime. It’s subversive and a betrayal of the authenticity of the creator’s original intent. You shouldn’t accept it when you agree with it and complain when you don’t. I’d have been equally offended had it been edited to be pro-gun or pro-Trump. UKA is not the place to express those concerns however.
That Anime Feminist was “singled out” from the full list of cited sources by a referenced article was simply because it was the only site name with a clear political agenda – Marxist, capitalist, socialist, whatever your -ist, it’s a statement of political intent. I don’t object to anyone’s right to discuss these issues, I simply questioned if it was valid (albeit badly).
I have been informed since the podcast that Amelia’s site pays for contributions and is run as a proper business. That’s admirable and explains why money was discussed so openly (one of my poorly made observations).
UKA runs on code I built from the ground up. It is paid for by me where advertising falls short, and not run for profit. It never has been. (Andy Hanley should confirm that when funds have allowed I have paid for his travel and accommodation at events like MCM). In that sense, yes I am the publisher of UKA, and if that offends you, then you have to vote with your browser. But be under no illusions, I do not profit from UKA, I will not interfere with Seb’s Editorial mandate any more than I interfered with Andy Hanley’s, I will not handle any advertising revenue, Seb is now directly and personally responsible for the site.
Ross’ comments did not go without incidents however. Amelia Cook of Anime Feminist responded on her Twitter:
Originally posted by Amelia Cook:
That sentence should have ended with “I can’t speak for Amelia,” Ross. I’m going to do you the courtesy of not tagging you so my followers are unlikely to engage with you, but I assume you’ll see this and there are some things I need to say.
First, I would really prefer you not co-opt the language of social justice in such a way as to isolate me from allyship and support. That may not have been your intention, but it’s sure as hell the outcome you’re encouraging by doing so.
Think about it: you promote the idea that I should speak for myself, right after you made UK Anime an unwelcoming space for me. I’m comfortable with existing members of your community registering their own objections. Why on earth would I risk receiving backlash on your turf?
I also don’t think it’s right to speak as if people are “rushing to [my] defence” rather than expressing their own valid concerns, based on years of working with you and investment in UKA. They would have objected to that podcast regardless of whether you trashed my work or not.
And let’s talk about that “win” you speak as if you deserve credit for, the increase in funding you no doubt assumed from this tweet.
I’m sorry you didn’t pick up on the sarcasm, but let me be clear: I was seething when I wrote this, and I’m just as angry now.
How dare you take credit for increasing our income when I have no idea how much you could have cost us? You used your platform to loudly question the validity of my business and decry our methods of fundraising. You think that had no negative impact? How can you be sure?
We made about $12 in pledges that day, mostly from people who had been intending to pledge anyway and this discussion served as a reminder. For context, our pledges went up by $400+ in April. So I guess you could try to take credit for that $12, but that would be a mistake.
Do you know why people pledge to
@AnimeFeminist? Because we put out diverse, quality content for an underserved niche, with a track record of managing contributors and finances ethically
I BUILT THAT. From the ground up. How dare you take credit for a single penny of our income?
Sure, you may have just been joking. But “It was a net win for Amelia” is the kind of narrative that sticks around, that people could throw in my face if I should object to this scenario again. “What’s your problem? I hear people publicly trashing your work actually benefits you”
I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you didn’t think through what the worst case scenarios could be for me if you linked my name with GG. It’s something I don’t think you’d want to take credit for, and I hope you’ll think twice about doing so in future.
I’ll be honest: your new venture scares me. I worry about what consequences there could be for me and my site as a result of being named in your opinion pieces. I just want you to leave me alone to work in peace, work which has zero impact on you. I hope you’ll let me do that.
We have conflicting politics, but I want no conflict with you. I want no grudge, no animosity – no relationship with you at all, in fact. I’m keen to coexist in peace, as two UK anime fans doing very different work for very different audiences. I just hope you feel the same.
Ross has also provided an additional response as well:
Amelia’s is entitled to her comments, and I’ve deliberately avoided a head on argument because I don’t think it’s helpful, or that she would be receptive, especially while UKA is involved. I was clear in my statement that she has handled the criticism robustly. I am still of the view that politicising anime is not good for the medium, but clearly there is a demand for her product as evidenced by her funding strategy, whatever my personal tastes on the matter.
If Amelia wanted to have a live debate about the validity of placing Western political values on a foreign culture, I’d be more than happy to do so, but not with me as the Editor in Chief of UKA.
Before moving on, a quick timeline, made by the new Editor in Chief himself:
Originally posted by Sebastian Reid:
- Ross issued an apology using UKA while he was EIC.
- I have issued an apology above.
- The website is owned by Etharius Ltd for the foreseeable future. This company is owned by Ross, but he has no ties to any editorial or content decisions on the website. He has no administrative powers (Except on the forum, which is a quirk of Xenforo)
- The argument with Anime Ltd was regrettable.
- If I personally have said anything offensive, I will respond accordingly but I don’t believe that I have.
- UK-Anime.net does not endorse something which has no content. Anime Independent was launched, nothing more.
- A UKA community standards check is being progressed, but this is a work in progress.
- Like everything, this all takes time which is unfortunately limited for me at the current moment.
The podcast seems to have caused controversy not just because it criticized political correctness affecting the anime industry but because of other issues as well: For one, many perceived it as supporting a specific political agenda. The picture above the repost of the podcast is the one that was originally on the podcast’s page on UK Anime Network, for example, and clearly references Trump; a political figure with whom many have intense and vitriolic hatred. Secondly, the podcast criticized Anime Feminist’s fundraising methods and the website has long prided itself on how it raises funds from the community and how it pays all contributors.
As mentioned by the above linked material, this is not a one-sided issue however, and many still fail to see why there was such a fuss in the first place. In my conversation with Ross, I learned that he delayed the podcast’s release to Wednesday (Usually goes up on Sundays) because he wanted to run it by a few non-anime fans first to see if it was too controversial and most of them didn’t seem to think so.
While the podcast made some unfortunate comments (The fundraising issue mentioned above), the truth is the material as a whole was rather tame and a great deal of people fail to see why it would cause such a stir in the first place. Other website, my own included, have far harsher words to say on the same topics with the worse to ever happen being a Twitter rage session. Many have also expressed (Online as well as by emails) that the reason for the entire controversy, more than anything else, seems to be that we are increasingly living in a society where only one political view is acceptable, and Ross expressed an opinion that exists outside that paradigm. Some have wondered if there would have been the same outrage, or outrage at all, had he expressed an equally strong opinion but from the other side of the political spectrum; would a pro-feminist, anti-fanservice speech have elicited the same level of backlash? This is an especially relevant question in light of the fact that another news website, Anime Herald, often espouses politically charged and often vitriolic comments with little backlash.
The controversy also wasn’t without its share of ugliness. We often hear how individuals on the political left, especially feminists, are threatened when they make controversial comments that challenge the status quo. But it is often ignored that the same applies for those who hold the opposite opinion:
I have been personally threatened with doxing (though he uses his real name and is easy to find anyway), and I have been told by an ex-staff member that “shit will really hit the fan” if he ever comes back. The vitriol aimed in my direction has been severe.
Ross further added:
I’ve also been hugely disappointed with some quarters of the community – we took the file down within 48 hours, but it was distributed through other channels as you know. That’s out of my hands but I question the motives of people who seem to be delighting in causing more distress to others to further their own cause. I have left UKA for the good of the people remaining, but attacks continue on them for my personal comments – I don’t see the benefit to the community but it certainly fuels traffic to the websites that are participating in it.
Another angle is the corporate one. Andrew’s involvement seems to have helped fuel the flames of this particular controversy and I also managed to get a statement from Ross on the issue. Before I disclose it though, it should be known that Ross’ comments aren’t coming from someone who has no knowledge on the topic and is ranting based on personal offence, he is the co-owner of a major British Suiting cloth manufacturer and travels extensively throughout the world so he is familiar with the business world and is talking from experience. He is also familiar with how the anime business works as well since he spends around 3 weeks a year in Japan due to his work as a consultant within the anime publishing industry.
Being attacked by Andrew Partridge at Anime Ltd for being “out of touch with the industry” was also a low point. For one, it demonstrably isn’t true given, in the last 12 months, the site had interviews with 3 major anime studios including Trigger and Madhouse, attended and promoted the Winter Wonder Festival and even interviewed Anime Ltd’s own staff on the impact of successful limited anime film runs in UK cinemas on a previous podcast. To me this seemed to be a case of discrediting the source given that he directly distributes Funimation product in the UK and has a commercial interest in silencing any criticism. Mobilising the community to defend his own business interests was, I felt, manipulative and unprofessional.
The controversy as well as its impact on the site also appear to have been focused on the professional level, with staff and members of industry mainly being the most upset. So far, the entire affair seems to have had little effect on readership; as Ross said when I questioned him:
In terms of readership, it hasn’t really registered. The site gets 200,000 unique visits a month, give or take. On that basis the site hasn’t lost any significant readership according to our SmarterStats software (as you might expect there has actually been a spike due to the controversy). Likewise, our Patreon lost $7 (of $28, we don’t really push it as advertisers have always been our mainstay) and our twitter followers dipped by around 25 followers and are now higher than where they were at the time of the incident. Our social media still gets likes and retweets. We can deduce that this is a very localised but passionate protest.
And since then, it appears that the staff that left has even been replaced with new writers:
While we have lost some very valued members of the team and I respect their decisions and reasons for leaving, we have gained some new faces who we expect great things from and it is UKA’s intention to move forward from this. I am helping to establish some new editorial and community standards which will dictate our future direction, and this is being discussed with the new editorial team.
By the time it was over, Anime Feminist, the founder of Anime Limited and staff at Anime UK News were involved and not to mention the initial resignation of staff, internal disputes and the change in editor in chief along with the initial removing of the podcast in question. All of this because of a few tame political opinions where worse is expressed daily elsewhere?
By now the controversy is dying down and new staff members have been brought in to replace the ones that left.
Thankfully we have a new batch of writers who weren’t involved and are keen to go, and older writers who had moved on are returning to support the site, so we’re re-organising but nearly back to where we were. Seb is leading the site now.
Speaking in retrospect on the incident:
The worst part of all of this is the division in the community this has caused. On a personal level I’m not really that affected – UKA was a hobby for me, one I effectively gave complete control of to Andy Hanley for 10 years before he moved into the industry. Although I do actively work in the anime industry from time to time, with 3 weeks in Japan a year, it isn’t a major part of my life socially or professionally. But watching people I care about falling out over this, or being genuinely upset because they’ve been personally attacked due to their relationship with me, is genuinely unsettling.
All that said, I have been buoyed by the fact that some people have been prepared to stand up to the bullying and speak their mind. It gives me hope that common sense still exists and that, eventually, cooler heads will prevail. Well, after the explosion subsides from the comments above at any rate.
Ross himself is leaving the website but not the community. He intends to create an all new website where he can more freely discuss certain issues that he obviously cannot on UK Anime Network. The new site will be called Anime Independent and so far only this Twitter account exists. Speaking on the matter, Ross elaborated:
Anime Independent will be a personal blog to discuss Japanese culture and my own geeky pursuits where I can make my views as an individual and not part of a collective. One of my major concerns during this period has been the attempt to shout down any views that do not conform to those of a few, loud, individuals. To simply walk away and allow this sort of behaviour to run unchecked is not healthy for the industry or the community at large. I have received a lot of support both privately and online, and so for those people I’ll continue to be a voice in the community, seeking to promote Japanese culture as is, and only speak my mind on those matters I think need a level-headed approach. I will not seek to create controversy, but I won’t run in fear either.
Finally, this controversy highlights just how vitriolic politics has become in general and as a result, may itself be the best argument towards leaving politics out of the medium. But as for the current issue, I hope the folks at UK Anime Network get back on their feet and also hope the best for Ross in his new endeavor.
Source: Article Image: UK Anime.net Logo