Incompetence, Lies, Greed: What Hilton’s Quality Guarantees Seem to be worth.

(The following is a missive I sent to The Alloy Hotel, supposedly a Doubletree, after they did everything they could to wreck our event.

The Alloy has claimed it did nothing wrong. To my shock, it seems their management company won’t take action.

If you’re in the industry – feel free to get in touch with me for my thoughts on why you should NEVER work with a Hilton property again

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Dear Michael and Jenn,

Our communications have been delayed because we were trying to give everyone on staff, our vendors, programming, and our attendees time to get us their feedback.

It is with regret that I inform you that, due to the damages done to our company by the direct actions and inactions of your hotel, we are seeking compensation, not payment terms. We are requesting a full and immediate refund of our deposit, and assistance from Concord Hospitality in recovering from the harm done to our company, our event, our guests, and our other stakeholders.

We have been collating responses both from inside our team and the event participants, detailing some problems, errors, misrepresentations, mishandlings, and generally damaging situations. It’s the second half of this letter.

The first half is from my own direct experience. It would have consisted of four parts, had I not received a fairly disturbing report which brings my own list of challenges to five.

I’ll begin with that:

1. I have it on reliable authority that the Alloy management claimed that one of the company’s coordinators thanked the hotel for a great event and gave positive feedback.

This is untrue. It is a false claim, and that is of extreme concern to us.

First, we have specifically sent no feedback because we have been trying to gather data from those who attended.

Secondly: We have two coordinators, myself and Sabryna. Neither of us have made any such communication. For myself, as you are aware, my last communication with you was in response to your request for a meeting before I left the hotel. I declined to meet. When you reiterated the request, asking if there was any time that worked for me that day, I gave the reply below:

From: Jeff Mach <jeff@jeffmachevents.com>
Date: Mon, Aug 2, 2021 at 10:53 AM
Subject: Re: Post Con
To: Jenn M Shipman <Jennifer.Shipman2@hilton.com>
Cc: Sabryna <sabryna@jeffmachevents.com>

There will not be a time today when I’m not far too angry to have a productive conversation. I asked, early in the weekend, how you expected us to work productively on this situation under these circumstances. That would have been the time to begin looking for an answer.

__

The Alloy has been made aware of our actual position by our actual coordinators. Even if an unknown person misrepresented themselves to you about their position and our opinion, which I frankly find highly unlikely, the Alloy was in a position to know that this position is opposite to the one held by your actual points of contact within the company.

I don’t know the details of this matter, and am eager to hear an explanation, but it would unfortunately be characteristic of my experience if this situation was a deliberate falsification or misrepresentation in order to benefit the Alloy management.

I’d like to hope that I’m wrong. But I’ll get to the meat of my issues now.

In overview, they are:

1. Your fatal contractual breach, from day one, of your obligation to provide us with a working booking link and its surrounding basic infrastructure.

2. Your still-unexplained attempt to change one of the critical clauses of our contract, which was a deciding point in choosing your hotel–namely, the security clause–and, moreover, the manner in which your attempt to make this unacceptable change through what I can only describe as bullying and intimidation.

3. Prolonged nonresponse to issues until they were potentially irreparable.

4. The consequences of food and beverage issues, with the added complication of unexpectedly high ‘incidentals’ charges.

Let me sketch out each of these items.

I. Nonperformance, despite numerous contacts and frankly pleas on my part, of the key contractual requirement that your hotel provide us with a functional ability for our guests to book rooms into our block.

By contract, this obligation was to have been fulfilled by providing us with a reservation link; it’s inarguable that this link needed to be fully functional and be backed by reasonable infrastructure. What we received – namely, a broken link backed by an actively harmful infrastructure – is a fatal contractual breech.

The nonperformance, simply as a legal problem, is massive in and of itself, and if that were the only issue we had, it would be sufficient for us to seek remedy.

But it was also disastrous for us as a practical matter. Attendees of events such as ours will very frequently decide not to go if they can’t reserve at the host hotel; in fact, our business model relies most heavily on people who reserve their rooms early in preparation for attendance.

We also invested over a hundred hours, and over $10,000 in Facebook ads, advertising the link; that includes a desperate and expensive attempt to get people the difficult and counterintuitive information that they needed to ignore following the directions on the page, and instead take specific other actions, which were not at all discussed on the page, in order to make that reservation. It involved advertising the phone number and directions eventually given to us by our former sales manager, which, as you have admitted in email, were wrong.

All of that time and effort were much worse than a total loss, since the result was not simply a failure to gain reservations; it did widespread and active damage, as the people we directed towards that link were convinced, by both the initial page errors and the surrounding reservation infrastructure, that the hotel was wholly unavailable.

Michael, as you are aware, this is just a thumbnail sketch of a series of problems with the reservation system which I documented many times, and in detail, beginning with the frankly incredible fact that the dates in our custom link were incorrect–and (as I touched on above)–unless people literally ignored the directions on the page, and manually changed the dates (a process which was not at all intuitive)–they were told the hotel was full.

I reported this problem very soon after the contract was finalized on January 27th, and the problem went unfixed from early February until just before the beginning of May! Your website contains three phone numbers and a chat line, and any attendees who were confused and called any of those three numbers, even the ‘local’ number, were all transferred to National Reservations and told the hotel was unavailable. Anyone who followed the directions on your link and received that error notice were told, by the site, that the hotel was unavailable, and immediately given a toll-free number and a chat line to get help (as well as recommendations for other local Hilton hotels.) Both the phone number and the chat line, again, led to national reservations, which told the prospective attendee that the hotel was unavailable.

IN SUMMATION OF POINT ONE: From day one, there was a significant contractual breech, one which went unremedied for months, and which, in and of itself, was crippling to the event.

II. Contractual bait-and switch, and sustained attempts to breech the contract regarding our security provision.

As an initial point: After 25 years in this industry, I’m aware that many hotels have standard clauses requiring that the event pay for outside security, usually off-duty police. It has been my policy of two decades to never work with a hotel that has this requirement; it’s a major expense which has been proven, over the course of literal decades, to be unnecessary, as we have our own security force.

Our contract was explicit in acknowledging that we did not need to have (much less pay for!) any outside security, because of that security force. Again, I would never have chosen the Alloy had the security requirement been part of our deal.

I’m going to make a brief aside, partly because it’s not an insignificant matter, and partly because it provides context both for how we felt about that situation, and leads into my third point.

As you are aware, we not only put our faith in the hotel for the one event, but, intending a longterm and mutually-beneficial relationship, we scheduled a second event with you. Based on multiple confirmations from the hotel, in writing, that we had that date and would do that event, we did significant advertising and planning. I was promised that a contract was coming “in a few days” or “next week” for months. When I did receive a contract, I reviewed it, signed it, and returned it the same day.

The hotel then, suddenly and without warning, refused to countersign the contract it had sent me hours before. (This breech of written agreement also did us damage, and it’s significant, but it’s unfortunately a comparatively minor point in the larger picture. It certainly resulted in our giving out refunds, as we were forced to change the date and the venue; it certainly cost us time, energy, and money in terms of advertising and planning. But that’s not the key issue here. I will note that this has the dubious distinction of being the first and only time, in the 25 years I have worked with venues, that a venue sent me a contract for signature, then rejected their own contract.)

I was summoned into a phone call with Michael and, if my notes are correct, Jenn and our (then) sales manager, Kristen.

During this phone call, Michael informed me that there had been ‘threats’ of ‘picketing’, and the hotel was therefore changing the contract to reflect the addition of $10,000 in police presence, with a cost to be shared between us and the hotel.

I attempted to ask for details; Michael cut me off. I attempted to explain that we had received some anonymous threats of picketing three years ago, and had three years of event experience with why the picketing never materialized; Michael cut me off. I attempted to point out that this was not in our contract; Michael cut me off. I asked for proof, documentation, information, and/or details; Michael ended the call. In both my notes and my memory, Michael actually hung up on me.

I sent my sales manager a long email, the heart of which was pointing out that I would never have signed the contract with this provision; that it was a bait-and-switch; that I felt personally betrayed and did not know how to trust the hotel again, and that this had done grave harm to literally hundreds of people.

The hotel’s response was wholly unprecedented in my experience: I was forbidden from ever speaking to Kristen again in any way, and given a new sales manager, Jenn. I was also told that Jenn would be fully informed about our situation; this was not true, as shown in several months of later correspondence. (Again, see point III.)

While this was deeply unpleasant, particularly as my first contact with Michael, the central point is this:

Our contract is explicit that contractual changes can only be made with mutual consent in writing. I noted this multiple times (in writing). The Alloy consistently ignored this point, and treated this absolutely as a done deal which would not be discussed, including eventually sending a contract revision which I was pressured to sign.

I don’t know whether the Alloy’s management assumed I was ignorant of the workings and details of our contract, or if they simply felt I could be intimidated and bulldozed into agreeing to something they had absolutely no right to demand. Certainly, the hotel never even attempted to answer any of my questions about what the security concerns in question might have been, beyond that mention, in our phone call, of ‘picketing’.

I was given every reason to expect that this would be a fight at some point—that the police would be hired and I would be billed for them, regardless of our contract.

The Alloy’s attempt to make a game-changing, expensive, never-explained alteration which was explicitly the opposite of our written agreement, compounded by its absolute refusal to follow (or even acknowledge) its clear contractual obligation of obtaining and of mutual written consent, absolutely destroyed my trust in the hotel. When, later, the hotel’s pressure to make a mutual change included a removal of that clause, Michael and Jennifer acted as if this was a sweetener and a favor, rather than simply the cessation of a wholly inappropriate attempt to bulldoze us into an action contrary to our interests, our pre-contractual negotiations, and our policies.

The absolute and utter disregard for the terms of our contract left me with the impression that the hotel might go back on absolutely anything it told us, at any time; if the hotel did not think it needed to be bound by our contract, nor to address any of our concerns on that subject, nor even to explain its reasoning, there was no way for me to have trust that the hotel would respect any agreement, explain any action, or respond to any concern. And unfortunately, this turned out to be utterly true.

I also could no longer even rely on the idea that the hotel prioritized the profits it would gain from my event(s). The rejected contract was even larger than the existing contract, and I had (and still have) no way of knowing if the hotel simply no longer wanted my business, or somehow did not recognize, despite my saying so explicitly, that their treatment made it inconceivable that I’d sign the new contract.

Outside of anything else, this created incredible stress within our company, as well as taking up a lot of our resources in attempting to anticipate and reduce potential harm from this situation. Unfortunately, that harm happened on a scale beyond anything we would have anticipated, and resulted in the incredible level of mutual loss detailed in Section IV.

III. Nonaddressal of issues.

This segment is short, partly because the others are long, and partly because the actions in Point II would be symptomatic of my experiences from that point on. I could supply a list of issues, requests, queries, and concerns which were not addressed, but I don’t think that is necessary.

I’ll give a few key points which became major issues, though:

-My largest and most important vendor is a winery; given the hotel’s contractual food and beverage exclusive (but also, the repeated verbal assurance by Kristen that this was a mandated clause, but would have flexibility once there was a catering manager), we addressed that point specifically and in writing and obtained written agreement for their appearance and vending in April.

Actual terms were, finally, after repeated and consistent requests, worked out the week before the event.

The day before the event, the Alloy changed those terms completely, wrecking that vendor’s plans. Had the Alloy’s management not, in the course of long interaction, made that winery feel that there was (in that vendor’s opinion, and their wording, “gross incompetence”) on the part of the Hotel, I would have lost that important vendor; the band they sponsored; and the upcoming business deals I have with them. This could have been fixed had the issues been addressed in or near April, when the hotel gave its agreement. It also need not have happened at all had the hotel not given the winery a clear and specific deal, then changed it with neither notice nor reason given.

(And again: As a Pennsylvania winery extremely familiar with Pennsylvania liquor laws and working with establishments which have liquor licenses, this vendor had the advantage of being very knowledgeable about the laws and rules of these circumstances, as well as having extensive experience vending at other Pennsylvania locations with liquor licenses, and firsthand experience in creating high mutual profit.)

-Because Covid clearly effected the event industry and the hospitality industry, I mentioned, several times, that outside circumstances meant we would need to alter our payment structure, our room agreements, attendee expectations, and multiple other points. In general, I received no reply at all, although sometimes, I simply received rejections.

-For the sake of brevity, I’ll simply say: if needed, I can document having sent detailed concerns about many anticipated problems, many of which were predictively accurate and became the 50+ issues which follow this email.

One of those anticipated problems was eventually addressed when, as the event drew close, I was offered a deal which cut our room commitment. It was never referenced as a response to the intense barriers my attendees faced in attempting to book, although our ticketing data alone shows that, under circumstances with functional booking infrastructure, we almost certainly would have sold out the hotel. Based both on our measurable data, and on our experiences with the Alloy’s management, as well as how the Alloy eventually used that deal, I don’t think the offer was ultimately beneficial for us.

The aforementioned deal was represented entirely as a favor to the event, one which might help the Alloy salvage a few sales. We don’t begrudge the hotel its sales (and the ability to open sales to the general public at a certain date was certainly in our contract.) But we would likely feel more positively towards the situation had we not encountered a number of on-site problems affecting our room block.

As we found out on the Friday of our event, the hotel somehow ‘lost’ several of our attendee rooms, as well as several parts of our Master List. In addition, not only did the hotel not honor our request to put additional number of rooms on the Master List, it also went from representing itself as deeply undersold, to selling out without informing us. I acknowledge the hotel’s contractual right, at that time, to sell those rooms however it chose. But even the smallest courtesy of letting us know the hotel was filling up fast, or at least informing us before our actual arrival that the hotel was sold out, would have allowed us to make provisions. Instead, we had many attendees who showed up for the weekend in the hope that (as is more normal) there would be some rooms available due to drops. The hotel had the right to sell our drops outside of our block, but usually hotels recognize that even if convention guests pay a lower rate, having those attendees on site is of benefit to the client’s bottom line, and of benefit to the hotel’s outlets and reputation. Failing this, had we been kept in the loop, we could at least have created an active plan to retain those attendees and get them to and from an overflow hotel.

In addition, I have spoken to at least a few of our attendees who booked ‘outside’ of our block. That’s not surprising; before the hotel opened itself to “outside” guests, it was almost impossible for our people to book the hotel, and literally almost every possible method they tried was blocked. As soon as the hotel opened, our attendees could book easily on the hotel’s website or the Hilton site, or by using the aforementioned phone numbers, or via various online travel sites. And, in fact, they would have been able to book some of the rooms, not just with vastly greater ease, but at a lower price, another point that I documented to Jenn.

The Alloy has stated that they cannot give us the names of anyone who booked outside our block for reasons of privacy. And I do respect privacy concerns. But it leaves us with the uncomfortable knowledge that at least some of those rooms were booked by our attendees, and that there was clearly demand for our room block, which was disabled by the barriers to booking.

ON A NOTE OF RESPONSIBILITY : When we neared the event, our team needed more time than expected, and missed some minor contractual deadlines, in areas of catering and rooming lists. However, our rooming list situation was made incredibly difficult by the extreme confusion surrounding reservations.

(Some of our guests even thought they had to go through the reservation link and not through us, which made it difficult to track them down–and it turned out to be correct, since, in fact, the front desk was unaware that they were on the Master List I submitted, and had they not self-reserved rooms, they would not have had rooms at all, since, again, unexpectedly, there was not a single room available on Friday).

Likewise, catering was slowed by the fact that we didn’t have a catering contact for most of the event; that we were forcibly removed from the person with whom we had discussed our catering; that catering managers changed a few weeks before the event; and that we were forced to make extremely difficult scheduling arrangements, because the Alloy is the first hotel in all of my experience which insisted that it could not put our food-related events in any part of the restaurant space.

I found it unusual that the hotel, with an abundance of restaurant seating, at least one semi-private dining area, and with a staff shortage, would choose to spend the time, staffing, and money on completely resetting a room, serving food in it, then cleaning it and resetting it; but we scheduled our Tea events in the event space, despite the fact that this made our scheduling extremely difficult.

(And then, when this situation changed at the last minute, it actually hindered us–because we were left with a large, visibly empty, uninviting hole in one of our two main programming areas. This left nothing in it to create draw to the vendors in the area, a problem which persisted for an uncomfortably long period, due to the large chunks of time we allotted to allow for what we believed would be a major setup/takedown. Our vendors experienced increased distress and decreased traffic [as part of our vending had been planned to make sure our tea attendees, traditionally good spenders for our vending, would be brought into close contact with that area’s merchants]–and it greatly increased attendee confusion about the printed schedules, which now had major errors in them.) We actually experienced a vendor exodus from that area, leaving the vendor room somewhat depopulated, and at least some of our vendors believe it was triggered directly by people going past the vendor area into what they thought would be the Tea, and finding nothing. This is anecdotal; but it’s certainly symptomatic of the effects of disrupting our flow of entertainment and activities at the last minute.

Mr. Sechrist, who was brought on at the very last moment and who has been the only executive staff member to inspire confidence in myself and my team, seems to have done his own best; he may very well have even made that move happen because I had requested it so strongly. But he was made our point of contact at the last minute, and by then, I don’t think anyone could have turned the situation around.

IV. Finally, our event suffered extreme damage from the food and beverage situation.

And, to make matters worse, this hit us from an incredibly unexpected direction, because it took a large source of guaranteed hotel revenue, one which the hotel, by demanding an exclusive, clearly valued very deeply; and transformed it into a huge mutual negative.

I am always leery of contracts which give a hotel food exclusivity; but given that, at the time of signing, the hotel had no food and beverage manager, and did not have any kind of restaurant, I was given assurances that we would be able to work out good plans for mutual benefit once the restaurant re-opened.

Hotels demand F&B exclusives for the express purpose of driving maximal traffic to their outlets; with or without exclusives, I’m used to seeing our attendees fill even large outlets to capacity through the day and night. Had the hotel made food and beverage even reasonably available, its income from F&B would clearly have been extremely substantial; I’ve watched it happen for decades, and even attendees with no background in hospitality whatsoever are aware of this phenomenon.

(I’m not claiming to know the restaurant’s profitability or its back-of-house situation. I’m simply saying that even if we had predicted that the hotel would be hostile, we would never have predicted this disaster.)

We all expected the restaurant to be a hub of activity; we were not permitted to put a jazz band in the lobby, our Meadery prepped for the level of sales it normally makes at an event of this size; as I mentioned, we were told that the Restaurant wasn’t even available for catered events because it would be serving patrons.

Instead, it was the worst possible scenario. While many of the servers were extraordinary and praiseworthy, they were visibly understaffed beyond belief. I recognize that there are staffing difficulties during the pandemic; but if the hotel was truly wholly unable to meet even minimal staffing needs for food service with months and months of notice, we absolutely needed the food and beverage clause rescinded, we needed to be notified, and we needed to make emergency plans. Even if we’d had to make emergency plans on Thursday night, which would have been unacceptable, it might at least have salvaged some of our attendee retention.

At an event with long days and over a thousand people in attendance, the kitchen was closed for substantial (and apparently wholly unpredictable) portions of time. As far as I can tell, the restaurant was actually closed; it certainly did not have any visible presence of someone front-of-house except during breakfast. The only staffed area for the majority of the event was the bar itself. At no point did I see more than three people working at the bar. It wasn’t unusual for there to be only one person.

Despite the fact, acknowledged before the event, that the hotel’s regular menu was not suited in price point, convenience, portability, or (on the restaurant end) speed of delivery, only the regular menu was even partially available. Room service was not available, of course, so patrons could not call to get fed; their only option was to attempt to make it to the bar, get the attention of the beleaguered staff, and wait on food which was clearly never intended for mass service, or even large-scale service. Attendees could see row after row of tables, but were forbidden from using them for eating the only food readily available, ie, delivery; we were, of course, contractually obligated to attempt to stop people from ordering outside food, and not permit it to be eaten in our spaces if possible.

The hotel ran out of food. It ran out of pork. It ran out of eggs. It ran out of several types of alcohol.

And the result was visible, most especially on Saturday night. Hungry attendees at least made some attempt to stay within the hotel and order food on Friday; but they received (contractually-obligated) discouragement on multiple fronts. Many left for the night, dining out and then going to bed, in an assumption that things would be better on Saturday.

Things were much worse. We achieved our full crowd, and not only were they told the kitchen was closed for much of the day (with no posted hours)–but by then, they were hungry, upset and frustrated.

By this time, many of them had noticed that, in addition to the full up-front charge for their stay, of which they were informed, that the nebulous ‘incidentals’ were frequently $150 or more. In essence, they realized their pockets were bare, that their spending cushion wasn’t present. The hotel was not technically required to tell them the amount of the incidentals hold, but I think we’re all well-aware of how important it is to help manage peoples’ expectations about incidentals.

Perhaps there was a goal of driving them to the restaurant, where they could have used that hold for food charged to their rooms. This, clearly, was sabotaged by the hotel’s failure to provide food, supplies, services, and (on at least one night) a head chef.

The response was visible and obvious: my attendees left the event in massive numbers, going elsewhere to eat. Hungry, visibly agitated, angry at the hotel and (sometimes) the convention, and having spent months preparing to have a big, festive Saturday evening, most of them stayed out for effectively the entire night, many of them showering local eateries with extravagant spending. I can’t blame them; I would have done the same. But they were gone, and they came broke. It wrecked my audience; it wrecked my investment in sound and light and entertainment for Saturday; and it absolutely wrecked our vendor profitability and our attendee happiness.

Some of this is conjecture, but it’s based on discussions with a huge number of vendors, performers, and attendees.

A FURTHER NOTE ON INCIDENTALS:

I’d like to note that the incidentals charge was clearly vastly above industry standard, and our contracted stated that any incidentals charge was to be “the anticipated use of the Alloy, a DoubleTree by Hilton ancillary services”. I sincerely consider this to be a fraud perpetrated upon our attendees and our event. I use this strong language because the hotel utterly failed to offer ‘ancillary services’, and unless someone was essentially a major event player (myself; the woman who ran our tea parties; and, really, nobody else)—it was literally impossible to access the largely-unavailable, unstaffed, unready ‘services’; even the Starbucks’ payment processing was broken, necessitating a trip to the (again, understaffed) front desk to permit even the starvation-level protein boost of a Kind bar. The number is damagingly unreasonable; the lack of warning to both us and attendees is unconscionable and precisely the opposite of the incidentals policies of the dozens of hotels with whom we did business before the Alloy made us false and insincere offers.

(Candidly, if I’d had an idea that a full up-front payment for rooms would be followed by the highest incidentals hold I have ever seen at one of my events, I would have objected, in strenuous terms, that this was bad on all sides. But I was not made aware of this, despite the fact that your front desk’s incompetence and/or malice meant that I spent all of Friday going to the front desk and fighting for our attendees to be able to check into the rooms they had reserved.)

After ceaseless obstruction, incompetence, and a shocking lack of interest in situations with serious legal consequences (I do not believe that a hotel whose “ADA-compliant” bathroom has doors which stick if opened, such that a disabled veteran was flung from his wheelchair, and slammed into the floor with great force, has any actual right to claim that it is able to host any event whatsoever; and the hotel’s total unconcern in the lack of our documented complaint shows a grossly ableist attitude, as well as noncompliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and disrespect to a veteran.

Candidly, if I’d had an idea that a full up-front payment for rooms would be followed by the highest incidentals hold I have ever seen at one of my events, I would have objected, in strenuous terms, that this was bad on all sides. But I was not made aware of this, despite the fat that your front desk’s incompetence and/or malice meant that I spent all of Friday going to the front desk and fighting for our attendees to be able to check into the rooms they had reserved.

(In at least one case, our staff photographer drove 3 hours, found there was no room in his name, was given a new room, and found the room was double-booked and thus unusable.

It’s hypothetically possible that my attendees left on mass because they hated my event; but given that this contradicts the written feedback received, and the fact that my next event is already seeing high room pickup from those same attendees, it’s unlikely, to say the least.

Going back to another fatal error, I’ll stress again: with regards to the food situation, it seems unlikely to me that Mr Sechrist was at fault, despite his position as catering manager. However, it’s clear that there was serious fault here, and it has jeopardized our vendor relations, our attendee good will, and our staff’s hope of writing anything other that furious one-star reviews, which will be an accurate expression about how we feel. As one attendee put it, “Why do they hate us and screw us at every turn?”
I have not had an experience this negative with a venue since 2006.

I recognize that Covid has been a difficult time. And, in fact, as mentioned, I sent many missives saying that we should reconsider parts of our contract to deal with the complications of the pandemic. By the time I began receiving regular responses from the hotel (and even then, the responses were to immediate and approaching issues; I fully expect my beard to reach my knees before anyone considered contacting us with any sort of facts; and I would be shocked if anyone attempted to convince us that the hotel was in any way prepared, or that the hotel was not making a clear, concerted effort to drive us away permanently.

Having addressed two concrete contractual issues, one issue of apparent intentional deception from the Alloy about its conduct, several issues of nonresponse which I can document in as much detail as is desired, and, finally, two major issues which, by every possible indication and feedback we’ve received, I can and will say that the hotel caused massive and irreparable damage to the event, and clearly did so intentionally.

Let’s now discuss just a small percentage of the suffering and misery endured by my guests, team, vendors, and other stakeholders.

Let’s begin.
1. The hotel was well-informed that JME Staff would be showing up Thursday 7-29-2021. I’ll admit that, early on, the Alloy management team not only expressed surprise at our desire to begin setup on Thursday, but seemed literally unaware of the existence (much less the desirability!) of shoulder nights. (As a sidenote, this also means that no part of the hotel’s registration was able to accept stays longer than two nights. That problem was so unexpected that it remained undiagnosed until, very close to the end, I started to receive multiple vendor complaints about it.) At any rate, I eventually sent over some substantial explanations of why our setting up on Thursday would save dozens of man hours and other costs to the hotel. And when we and the Alloy ratified the “room opening” clause on July 12th, the contract addendum was explicit in showing that our space rental began Thursday at noon. Yet despite having this knowledge in writing, and despite it being in our contract—when we arrived on that Thursday, the hotel denied us space for which we had both contracted and prepaid. The hotel was not ready for our arrival even several hours into our contracted time; and the hotel presented us with dirty, unready rooms. Even the maintenance / cleaning crew were openly annoyed at our staff when we asked for several of the ballrooms to be cleaned so JME staff could begin layout of vendors and other event space. Multiple ballrooms weren’t simply unvacuumed, or lacking in small areas; they were literally filthy, with trash and detritus on the floors. This was clearly unacceptable—and it was another clear, outright breech of contract.
2. The downstairs double doors that lead to the parking deck — the card key reader did not work, the doors did not lock, and these doors did not have any mechanism to keep them open for load in or load out. Vendors and stage staff had to use stanchions provided by JME as doorstops.
3. Vendors were told at check-in with the hotel that they were disallowed from using the hotel loading dock for load-in, despite it having been actively offered in previous discussions; by the time this situation was rectified, the vendors who had needed the loading dock had already loaded in via the side doors.
4. The downstairs room and ballroom doors did not open flat against the walls, impeding flow and sight down the lower hallway. This also darkened the middle area of the hallway and may impede sightlines for any CCTV system in the hotel.
4. The downstairs hallway ceiling repair patch between the Copper and Nickel doors continued to leak on and off as the weekend progressed. This made the carpeting in the general area extremely wet and gave off a musty smell. Buckets placed by hotel staff to catch the leak were not placed in a way in which the hallways would continue to be ADA accessible.
5. The downstairs electronic board that is adjacent to the Fusion room was not operating when JME Staff arrived on Thursday 7-29-2021. It was off Saturday 7-31-2021, when it was turned on (by hotel staff), whom advised ONE exhibitor in the Fusion room of the issue, but it was not brought to JME staff. It was discovered to show fractured, split images, fractured text and continued flashing by JME staff members later in the day Saturday 7/31/2021, until it was eventually turned off.
6. In the Palladium boardroom, the only electric outlet was along the left wall as you enter the room, hidden behind a large, heavy credenza. JME Staff had to move the credenza away from the wall in order to use it; this left a large gap behind the credenza. JME crew had to temporarily tape an extension plug bar along the wall side to stop anything from falling behind the credenza.
7. The Starbucks / Sundry was only open daily from 6:30 am to 11:00 am on the days of the event. This needed to be open all day to accommodate the large number of patrons at the show. This forced patrons to leave the hotel to acquire snacks, drinks, and / or toiletries at other establishments.
8. The Kiosk till for the Sundry was broken and inoperable for most of the weekend; the front desk of the hotel could only take card payments.
9. The restaurant needed to be open all day to accommodate the large number of patrons at the show. Not doing so was forcing patrons to leave the hotel to acquire food from other establishments.
10. There was not anywhere near adequate staff at the restaurant (when it was open) to accommodate the amount of show patrons.
11. Food at the restaurant, though good, was a very limited menu and many guests went elsewhere due to the limited menu and the expense of what was offered, plus, obviously, the dislike, discourtesy, and general nastiness of hotel employees towards attendees.
> Addendum from Sabryna: The food allergy-safe options were extremely limited and weren’t guaranteed to have not come in contact or even had common allergens in/on/near them.
> Vegetarian and vegan options were extremely limited
12. Food orders at the restaurant were at most times not correct, extremely delayed or sent back because of being cold.
> The avocado Benedict ordered for our meat-allergic company manager came a) with unadvertised Canadian bacon on it and b) ice cold
> Eggs came brown on the outside but raw on the inside
> Food orders at the bar had similar issues
13. Lighting in most of the ballrooms ( especially Alloy C ) could not be controlled properly.
14. Several areas of the hotel were visibly in disrepair and / or damaged prior to JME arrival. JME Staff documented many of these areas prior to set up and relayed these conditions to hotel staff. Further disrepair was discovered by JME staff as the event went on, such as Summit 6-15 being in the midst of remodel and the 3rd floor having 2-3 inches of drywall missing from the bottom of all of its hallways, which led our staff to be concerned of prior flooding of the hotel that was not mentioned to us.
15. Ice machines, soda machines and snack machines were extremely limited and non-existent on most floors of the hotel. Most of the ice machines were not operational.
16. Most hotel guests were not informed at check in that the rooms would not be cleaned and / or changed unless maid service was explicitly requested.
17. Maid service viewed by JME Staff was non-existent between Thursday 7-29-2021 and Sunday 8-1-2021.
18. JME Staff needed to repeatedly ask at the hotel front desk about opening up the parking deck for show patrons to park.
19. There was a severe lack of blackout curtains and / or operating shades in most of the rooms on the Summit level.
20. By midday Saturday, the few and far between garbage cans that were placed for the shows were overflowing, spilling trash onto the floors and forcing patrons to leave trash on adjacent tables, ottomans, or the floor.
21. Water stations were not placed until late Friday 7-30-2021. This was after JME Staff made several requests.
22. The water stations were not kept clean or refilled unless someone from JME Staff repeatedly reminded the hotel staff.
23. There was never a water station deployed to the Summit level, despite requests from our staff and dangerous attendee dehydration.)
24. The hotel repeatedly lied about room availability, forcing guests to not attend or find rooms elsewhere. We lost our room credits, we hurt our credibility, we lost guests, and we were forcibly prevented from fulfilling our attendance obligations.
25. As noted, the hotel put extravagant hold amounts on attendees’ credit cards upon check in, destroying attendee spending. This also limited what attendees could spend at vendors and other hotel amenities, and further damaged our vendors and attendees.
> addendum from Sabryna: “I was personally charged the agreed upon $150 hold (7/30/21), then my credit card bounced a $305 charge at 4:05am 7/31/2021, then was hit for another $116 and $111 charge on 7/31/21. This effectively knocked out that card for the whole event, as none of this money was freed from these holds until 8/2/2021.”
26. The hotel overbooked our Guest of Honor’s room. Someone else was booked for the room and walked in on the GOH while they were in the room. That is unacceptable and, obviously illegal; a hotel room rental is sacrosanct. Double booking rooms a predatory practice, and illegal in most states.
27. Upon arrival on Thursday 7-29-2021, there was only one hotel elevator working. By Friday, 2 hotel elevators were working somewhat. By early Saturday, all 3 were finally working reliably, at which point, they were then disabled again.
28. JME Staff discovered from other hotel staff that the restaurant head chef was not properly informed there would be an event on these dates; food wasn’t ordered, food wasn’t prepped, our request for a special menu was denied; and the chef wasn’t present, seeing no need, though multiple staff were hired for this purpose.
29. The restaurant only had one wait staffer on Sunday 8-1-2021. A cursory look at our guest list meant this was impractical altogether.
30. The restaurant ran out of fresh eggs and even bag-mix eggs on Sunday 8-1-2021.
31. On Thursday 7-29-2021 the lobby bar closed at 10:00 pm while there were still patrons at the bar and others were walking up to the bar for service.
32. By Saturday 7-31-2021 evening, the lobby bar was severely running out of various brands of alcohol.
33. The lobby bar staff did not have any information about the 2nd Speakeasy scheduled in Alloy C at 6:00 pm Saturday 7-30-2021. JME Staff had to remind the hotel bar staff of the time of the event. This prolonged the event to start 40 minuets late.
34. The hotel ATM ran out of cash sometime mid day Saturday 7-31-2021. No one contacted the ATM company to reload the machine, even though it is well-known that this is the majority of our banking.
35. There was no event space temperature control. Temperatures in most of these rooms varied from freezing to stifling.
36. The hotel’s 5th floor had a communal microwave. This was not present on any other floors.
37. Some hotel staff harassed several show attendees whose costumes and / or garb they were wearing was at least bathing suit appropriate.
> Addendum from Sabryna: I wore the exact same length shorts/skirts and dresses as these patrons and was *not* accosted or asked to “cover up”, leading us to believe this was specifically targeted towards certain body types.
38. The handicapped accessible door at the top of the curved ramp was an issue. The door did not stay open long enough for proper wheelchair access. In general, our handicapped attendees found their rooms to be illegally ADA-noncompliant.
39. The curved ramp at wheelchair access door was extremely narrow and not to code.
40. At the top of the curved wheelchair ramp, there was not proper room for the wheelchair-user or their attendant to safely access the automated button for the door. The wheelchair had to remain on the ramp portion to allow the door to swing outward, making for an extremely dangerous situation.
41. ADA (American Disability Act) rooms were not to code for proper wheelchair access. JME Staff and the hotel front desk staff were informed of a wheelchair bound patron that was ejected from his wheelchair at the bathroom door as he was being moved into their hotel room bathroom. The door was not wide enough to accommodate the wheelchair.
( JME can only suspect that there will be a separate lawsuit from the patron against the hotel )
42. Several contract stipulations with the Mead vendor were changed drastically by the hotel after the contract was accepted and signed.
43. The hotel demanded pre-approval and control of JME show vendors. This was outside the contract negotiations.
44. The hotel demanded pre-approval of JME show performers. This was outside the contract negotiations.
45. The hotel demanded insurance coverage well in advance of show dates. This was outside the contract negotiations.
46. The Link to hotel registration that was provided to JME was not operational.
47. The phone number for hotel registration given to JME was directed to national registration and not the hotel directly.
48. National registration had little to no information about the Evil Expo event, the show dates and / or the negotiated room rates. Most patrons that called were told that rooms were either not available or the rates were different then contracted. Several of these patrons contacted JME directly to question what JME was posting online about availability of rooms and the rates.
49. After JME’s Producer and JME Staff complained to the hotel about problems with room bookings and not meeting the room sales goals, the hotel arbitrarily modified the contract without complete JME cooperation and / or JME input.
50. The hotel staff that JME initially started negotiations with was apparently fired in the interim. The new hotel staff was not properly informed as to the dates of the event, the event , or what the event entailed; nor did they treat us with any sort of assistance.
51. At one point of the negotiations, event space was removed from use and partially returned only as the event dates moved closer.
52. JME was charged pre-cleaning, food service, bar, and other incidental charges not negotiated, discussed, or otherwise planned.
53. Several event patrons found that when they arrived at the hotel that their reservations were canceled without their knowledge.
54. At the last minute, the hotel requested moving the 2 Tea Parties to the restaurant. This made the setting a better choice, but since this change happened at the beginning of the event — even though JME had been asking about this for several months wherein the hotel continued to say no — altering the printed schedule for the event where possible, and having no contractual protection otherwise. This was highly detrimental for vending, for scheduling, for attendees finding the correct events and just bad for everyone.
55. The hotel did not hold any spare rooms for us at all; aside from the fact that there was obvious demand and it was likewise obvious that if no rooms were held, we would lose attendees and you would damage your reputation; but also, as happened so frequently that it’s essentially normative despite being unacceptable, I made a clear and specific request that the hotel hold ten more rooms in the Master Block, and the hotel did not even hold up the pretense of granting a single additional room to said block; they also failed to notify me in any way that my written needs would be wholly ignored. I found out in the worst possible way, as I learned, to my horror, that there weren’t enough rooms for many of our registered guests. For their part, the hotel did not even offer to hold the rooms at the new rates; so there isn’t even a visible profit motive for creating a situation where my guests felt wronged both by myself and by the Alloy. If a good friend of JME had not had 4 rooms reserved in his name that he was able to give up to the event. JME would have had even more of a situation where show patrons would have had no rooms.
56. JME’s Producer was quite specific in negotiations with the hotel about the hotel needing a convention style menu and convention style food / drink access on an all day basis. As detailed above, none of this was available the dates of the show.
57. Likewise, the hotel insisted on food exclusivity, which was disastrous given that the hotel misrepresented itself as having some ability to handle the rush, combined with the aforementioned lack of staffing, menu, and hours. This basically emptied the entire event out in the evenings, which did irreparable harm. This especially happened Saturday night. This was detrimental for vendors, for the bands, for the attendees and for having attendees return to the hotel. Especially if the attendees did not have a room reservation at the Alloy Hotel. ( JME has received complaints from several vendors as to lack of sales and patrons disappearing from the show floor at meal times. )
58. The hotel was adamant and would not allow any entertainment in the Hotel Lobby, Pool area or Dining Room areas, even though these areas would have idle and, to the blunt, almost utterly unused
59. There was a massive difference between the Master Room List and the At the Door Room List, causing Jeff literally 30 hours of sleep.
60. JME is at a loss to know how many other guests walked out because the hotel had dropped their rooms and / or sold those rooms to new non-show patron people at the higher rates, and / or double-booked their rooms. They were quite numerous.

CONCLUSION:

Michael, what we really want is what is fair, namely, we want our investment back. We want a return of the advertising dollars we spent on attempting to get people to make reservations which, as it turns out, were essentially impossible. I want the goodwill of my attendees back; I want them to know that I would never chose to lead them into starvation, and if I did, I would solve their food problems unless I was contractually obligated to avoid doing so. I want back thousands of dollars spent on sound and light for a crowd which could not reasonably be expected to watch performances when it had been denied basic human comfort. I want compensation for the expense of having my lawyer do a close reading of our contract to see if your actions had any legal justification. We contracted to pay for conference space, rooms, hospitality, clean facilities, reasonable consideration for our guests, and at least a good-faith effort to keep our contract.

No, we certainly will not pay you $24,000 for failing to provide what you promised in our contract, breaking our contract, and turning a festival weekend into an endurance contest for myself, my staff, and my guests. And we insist on a full return of our $11,000 as being the absolute minimum you could provide to us. Even without sixty or more documentable serious complaints, you have broken our contract repeatedly, then forced us into what you knew was financial hardship based on a combination of the pandemic and a preventable, inexcusable, lethally ruinous failure in the core of our contract and our business relations—that is, the simple ability for our guests to book rooms.

Michael: You knew our guests couldn’t book; I’ve written so many specific and detailed examples of it, including several that I witnessed personally, that there is absolutely no chance you were unaware of the problem. You knew that our event (like any association event) would lose literally thousands of dollars if guests thought the hotel was full.

Michael: You knew you had absolutely no right to change our contract without our consent, and especially no right to reverse one of its most critical and specific point. The repeated attempts by you and your staff to simply accomplish this by fiat are either some of the most blatantly deceptive, bullying, and inappropriate actions I have seen in 25 years of hospitality—or you were utterly unfamiliar with our contract, which means the hotel’s actions were in complete bad faith from the very start, and you had no intention of observing our contract because you were unable to do so.

In both cases, you took our money fraudulently and under false pretenses—that is, even if the consequences of your actions hadn’t lead to an utterly miserable, completely ruinous weekend, the context of your actions alone makes it abundantly clear that you never had the right to demand money in exchange for services you both could and would not provide.

In case it’s a question: No, there is nothing the hotel itself can do to make this better, not as long as you are in any sort of management position. You could offer to comp me a $50,000 master bill; but I still would not do business with you; you would not honor the contract, you would not provide us with what we needed, and I would not want a guest of mine to have to go through the ordeal of being at any property where there is any chance their health, safety, happiness, or well-being might rely on you in even the smallest of ways.

Michael, you have violated our contracts, you have caused my entire company almost half a year of stress and overwork, you have damaged my relationships with my most critical stakeholders, you have hurt my company’s reputation, you have had an active role in putting some of my vendors in dire financial danger, you have consumed a year’s worth of my advertising budget in situations which your hotel’s staff made into pure loss for me, and you have not simply been uncommunicative; you and your staff actively blocked the person with institutional knowledge about my event, you were unrelentingly hostile to us, you left months of critical correspondence completely without response, and, in the last month, the real crunchtime, you took a 3 week vacation which ended the day before we got to the hotel. I find it difficult to believe that your total inaccessibility, during the time when we most needed communication, is coincidental. I find it hard to believe you took a vacation with your hotel in its current state and a sellout crowd arriving the day after you returned; and then, having been conspicuously absent during the entire event, you asked I would meet with you, as if nothing had happened.

Even then, you took the inconvenient refusal of our coordinators to speak to you, and somehow managed to turn it into a report to your parent company that our coordinators were happy with you.

Michael, you were paid, as per our contract, and with an obligation to fulfill our contract. You have visibly, provably broken our contract multiple times, and done so to the detriment of all involved – my team, my guests, my vendors and, from everything I can see, your own team, your staff, and your parent company.

Michael, we require the immediate return of our $11,000.

Your actions are not in accord with the responsibilities of a Hilton franchise. They are not in accord with the stated principle of Concorde Hospitality.

Mr. Tyne:

I regret that our introduction happens under these circumstances, and I regret calling upon your time with an email of this size; but by the same token, I would not ask you to take me seriously if I could not document our problems. I’d like to note that my points are serious, and for the reasons stated above, they are essentially final; I can hypothesize some other compensation we would accept, but I’m not sure what it would be.

But I’m not seeking to achieve the nullification of the final bill, nor the return of our deposit, through any sort of coercion or force. I just experienced months of that circumstance myself, and would not willingly inflict it on a stranger.

I’m seeking it because Concorde has a sterling reputation; and Hilton is a household name for good reason. It’s my sincere belief that Concorde believes in hospitality, and in upholding the standards of (in this case) the Hilton brand, whose flag the hotel bears. I am open to, and would welcome, any investigation you would care to make, and any further evidentiary materials you might require. It’s my very honest thought that, once you have done whatever you find necessary to verify the truth of the statements and experience I have detailed above, we will be, not opponents, but two organizations of one mind: This is not acceptable, and recompense is necessary, not simply for the reputation of both of our organizations, but because I assume we share a common belief:

We are hosts, by choice and by profession. We never want our guests to come to harm, much less serious harm, through willful and deliberate failure to provide the hospitality we promised them.

I don’t seek extravagant financial compensation, though the harms to my company and attendees were vastly beyond the $35,000 at question here.

I simply want you to return to me the resources I paid in good faith, because that good faith was not returned, and now I need the resources to attempt to make my own guests whole.

Jeff Mach
CEO,
Jeff Mach Events (dba JM Events, LLC)

Update on the Turtle Hill Lawsuit

A brief moment of seriousness about the “Evil Expo lawsuit” that you might have heard something about.
Since people are STILL copy/pasting from the original press release, I thought I’d write my own.
This is it – since fairly few people know what’s going on, let me update you:
Technically, the lawsuit is still happening.. For reasons about which I will let you speculate, as I should not comment, Turtle Hill appears, to me, to be very anxious to try to keep the pressure of a lawsuit on me, my family, and (obviously) all of you, since it affects everyone who’s reading this.
This is despite the fact that:
1. The Court has found that Evil Expo was not a kink event. This is why the court refused to grant injunctive relief to Turtle Hill Events, and
2. During depositions, Cat admitted that directly that I was NOT the cause of GKE being cancelled. She admitted that it was cancelled because SHE failed to sign the contract on time and because the hotel GM said she was “unprofessional”.
(THIS MAY BE THE FIRST TIME SOME OF YOU FOUND OUT THAT CAT ADMITTED, IN COURT, THAT IT WAS SHE AND NOT I WHO CANCELLED GKE. YOU MAY HAVE HEARD I WAS RESPONSIBLE, OR I WAS A REASON IT HAPPENED WITHOUT REFUNDS; THIS IS NOT TRUE.)
Their lawsuit itself has been defeated on every significant point.. No, Evil Expo is certainly not any kind of kink event.. No, I’m certainly not prohibited from running Evil Expo or other events.. Despite their press release, I am most certainly allowed to write and publish books.. In terms of my “creeping back” into the world, or communities of creators, I’m allowed to be in the world, I’m allowed to create, and I’m allowed to make books, videos, shows, and any other creative endeavor.
I’m not a lawyer, but as someone who speaks to the public, I WILL speculate that this lawsuit is being kept alive largely to attempt to preserve the original myths of the original PR piece – the suggested assertion that I’m somehow not allowed to do anything because of some perceived but unstated woes.. This is not true, and the lawsuit does not, to me, model any views of reality.
Again, the persistent desire to make it harder for us to have events is bad for the entire event community and bad for everyone. But you’re all responding and buying tickets, and for that I thank you.
-Jeff Mach

Gaslighting For No Fun and No Profit

I had a friend, once. Let’s call her “Porcelain Puppet”, because that was her nicknamename. She had a tempestuous relationship with her partner at the time. Before my own cancellation, when I was in a position to help her, I did.

In the past three years, we’ve texted a bit. Often we’ve apologized to each other for being bad correspondants and reinforced our friendship with little ❤ symbols and well-wishes.

We had a friendly—even warm, though absolutely never romantic on either side—correspondence from( let me check my phone)–March 20th, 2018 to June 7th, 2021. Today, out of nowhere—that sounds like some kind of euphemism, but sincerely, the only indicator I had that anything might be negative was that it had taken a bit of time for her to respond to our last set of messages, and she was, if anything, a bit annoyed that I thought something might be wrong – that is, I asked if anything was wrong, and she replied that she was slow getting back to everyone.

Today, out of literally nowhere, she told me not to text her again. This is quite normal. Any society that lives on social currency will reward someone who says, “You know that person our social group hates? I hate them, too! I'm a member of the club! I'm cool like you are!”–just as the people who remain friends with me sometimes find other people unfriending them for no reason other than the fact that they haven't unfriended me for no reason.

I told her I would make a video about it. I did. I didn't name her; why would ? She's just one of tons of people caught up in a moral panic, one of tons of people who know that shunning The Accused will get them love-bombed, and giving even the benefit of doubt to The Accused will lose them friends.

Her response was a series of threats. Her boyfriend is a lawyer, she said. Any further contact would be harassment, she said. Talking about what happened would be harassment, she said.

If you're familiar with abuser tactics, then none of this is new to you. Of COURSE they want to isolate you. Of COURSE they want to frighten you. Of COURSE they want to think that telling anyone your story, explaining your abuse, discussing your pain, talking about how they've hurt or abused you… of COURSE this will be answered by force, by police, by ostracism. And of COURSE they'll threaten you with things that aren't real. Seriously: do they think it is legal to accuse people of theft, assault, chicanery, or general horrifying (and illegal) behavior—but NOT legal to call someone out, not even by name, for trying to make you think you're insane?

I know a cancelled person who refers to the (fairly major) news coverage of her alleged actions as being, essentially, attempts to get her to kill herself. She may not be wrong. There's no doubt in my mind that, even if they had mixed feelings internally, many of these people would give voice to the loudest possible voices of approval if I were to suicide. Even if they have mixed feelings, they know that they can post something like:

“Such and such person was bad in every way, and not even human, because of their horribleness. I am glad that being is dead, because they're not a person, just an embodiment of how cruddy this world is, and I'm happy to see one proponent of Bad Things buried, so that I will never have to worry about explaining myself to that person's face”–

–and get tons of “Yes! You go! You're strong! Be brave! You're bold! Be defiant! Hate this person whom we hate, and we will reward your act of bravery with even more status and with even more affirmation.”

I get where it's tempting. It's gross; it's wrong; it's unjust; it's why we had the murders of the Witch Trials, the insanity of the Satanic Panic, the alchemical transportation of Halloween fun into fears of (literally nonexistent) fears of Poison Halloween Candy.

After years of trying to see their point of view, of trying to listen, of investigating my words and actions, I've come to a simple conclusion:

These people cannot and will not EVER back up what they say, not ever, not even once, because none of what they say deals with reality, and worse, they fear the HELL out of reality. They fear nuance; they fear situations where they might not be wholly right; they're terrified at the thought that they might be forced to live in a world where they need to act based on what others do, instead of the stories they tell about other people.

These people have gaslit t/hemselves so hard that you could feel sorry for them…

…were it not for the fact that too much gaslight produces toxic residue which hurts absolutely everyone.

You can give them the benefit of the doubt. You don't have to attack them personally, even if they attack you by name (but I imagine you can; your choices are your own).

Just call out their behavior. Help the world know that this is a dangerous and pervasive malicious insanity. And we cannot and will not abide it – not simply because it hurts us, but because it hurts everyone

Witch-Hunting: Why Everything Becoms Fuel

(This is a reprint from my Medium blog, while I edit the new book. I felt it was worth stating here.)

One of the first things a witch-hunter learns is that a witch-hunt is very much like a fire. Perhaps you already have the conditions and tools to get it light; perhaps it even starts with an existing blaze, something big and crackling and scary that attracts attention.

And witch-hunts are, in essence, a fear of the dark. I don’t mean that poetically. I mean the premise of any witch-hunt is:

“There are those among us who profess to be like us, but secretly, they’re monsters. We need to get rid of them, because we’re unsafe until we do so.”

Because if they’re visible enemies, it’s not a hunt, it’s a war. If someone stands up and says, “I am here to do you harm!” — then, if you oppose that person, it’s a fight. Witch-hunts are defined by the fact that you are accusing someone of planning, in secret, to hurt you — when someone says, “I do not mean you harm, I am not your enemy, I am one of you, I am a friend, I am an ally”, and the witch-hunter replies, “No; you’re secretly a monster.”

It’s not that there’s never such a thing as a hidden enemy; it’s not that every hunt for secret malefactors is a witch-hunt. (Bank robbers do not wear t-shirts saying, “Hi, I rob banks”; people running nonprofits with the goal of taking the money for themselves do not send out donor letters saying, “I asked you for money to feed the hungry with the intention of using your dough to buy a fancy car; they just raised the prices on Ferraris, so please send more checks”.) But there are a number of characteristics of witch-hunts which are less often employed by sincere attempts to avoid harm. To give a few examples, with-hunts are notable for using weak proof to justify harsh penalties; for practicing guilt-by-association; for punishing criticism; for preferring to attack hiddenhypothetical enemies over visible, serious, known enemies — and for being deeply, intensely cannibalistic.

And that brings us back to the fire. I’m going to use the fire metaphor a lot in these discussions. It’s partly because fire is a well-known tool of witch-hunts — book-burnings, witch-burnings, temple-burnings, to name just a few — and partly because, with one major exception, it’s a pretty good metaphor.

Because witch-burners want a big, bright fire. Looking at a fire makes you night-blind; that’s great for those who want to deepen the aforementioned fear of the dark. The bigger your fire, the more people can hear its sound, see its light, feel its heat; and the more power is in the hands of those who build and maintain that fire. Fire is one of humanity’s first and most basic tools; and we still know it as important to survival. And fires are hungry; they need fuel, or they get smaller, and burn down.

And in my mind, that’s perhaps the most critical place where the metaphor breaks down. Because real fires are fueled by objects which are reasonably dry and have a reasonably low flash point — firewood, say. A person who feeds a fire could get hurt by it, could even die in that fire, but it won’t do that fire a lot of good.

Witch-burning fires are fueled by “those who are called witches”.

And that could be anyone.

And once you run out of easy outside targets, witch-hunters start throwing each other into the fire.

It’s natural.

Being good at witch-hunting means being good at spotting secret enemies. And the more you look for anything, the more you will see it. Did you know that the number five is everywhere? It is. Take some time today looking for the number five; I bet you’ll see it in more places than you thought. It could be part of the time on your screen, or a number on a receipt; you could have five of a piece of fruit on your counter, you could suddenly realize how often it’s on license plates. Sure, it was always already there, but if you try hard to look for it, you will notice it more often. (Sound obvious? It is. Now imagine someone who’s decided that a certain set of symptoms tend to indicate the presence of a witch. Unsurprisingly, that person will start seeing those symptoms all the time. The existence of confirmation bias is pretty well-proven at this point.

And what all these things mean is that the more successful a witch-hunt is, the more cannibalistic it becomes. The more you “prove” that there are witches everywhere, the easier it becomes to believe that there’s a witch right next to you. The more people who believe this, the more some of them will start spotting witches in their own midst. Witch-hunts tend to insist that those who are not with the witch-hunt are witches. This really helps the size of your hunt grow, since it ups the stakes pretty hard. And once you’ve established that witches are everywhere, then it’s impossible to believe that your own group is free of witches. The more you establish that witches are everywhere, that they’re devious, that they hide, that the most seemingly-virtuous person could be a witch…

…the more those who lead the witch-hunt become potential fuel for the fire. And they know it — consciously or otherwise. They know that if there aren’t external enemies, people will look for internal enemies.

And that’s just assuming that everyone in that group of humans has sincere, positive intentions. And the larger your group gets, the more that’s unlikely. There are ambitious, unscrupulous people in the world. And if you live in a situation where very little proof is needed, and very few denials will be heeded, all it takes is one person who starts to whisper.

It’s much worse, though. The ugly undercurrent comes into existence of its own accord. Have you ever been a part of any organization which was free of rumours? I doubt it. Rumours are a part of human communication. And they’re not fatal — until and unless you live in a world where rumours can become accusations in the blink of an eye.

Got an ex-boss, an ex-spouse, an ex-friend, an ex-member of your model train society? That person doesn’t have to be evil or malicious in order to dislike you. And in ordinary circumstances, that’s normal; we accept that, after a divorce, sometimes people are amicable, and sometimes people hate each other’s guts. It doesn’t mean that one or both parties is suddenly a monster; just that the ending of most human relationships is painful.

Witch-hunting organizations are based on the belief that the world is full of secret enemies.

Witch-hunting organizations need to keep finding new enemies, or they die off.

I don’t pity any witch-hunter or former witch-hunter, myself included. But I’ll offer a warning to those who haven’t already realized it:

The fire that warms you today will consume you tomorrow.

~Jeff Mach


 

My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities, put on events, and make stories come into being. I also tweet a lot over @darklordjournal.

I write books. You should read them

 

A Little Ignition

Once there was a town that found a witch, so they set out to burn her. Only it seemed wise also to burn her house as well, for it was known to be the center of a large collection of books of forbidden lore. No-one had seen them; but one doesn’t need to see these things; what else would a witch read?

So they sent a team of villagers into the forest to collect more wood to make sure that they could burn both the witch and the house, because parts of the house were stone, and would need some encouragement—not every wall would melt, but presumably all perishable things would be destroyed. Only, once in the woods, one of the wood-gatherers clearly heard another mention to a friend, in what he presumably thought was a private voice, that it was a shame; she’d always seemed like a nice old lady.

Instantly, the hero confronted the witch-lover, who immediately denied having ever said such a thing; but her companion verified that it was so. She said that her so-called ‘friend’ was always going around saying nice things about witches, and she had just been hanging around to keep a close eye on the situation. One of the wood-gatherers struck the witch-lover from behind, and they dragged her back to the town square. Soon both witches (oh, they were both witches; do you know what they found in her house? Books)—both witches were tied to large, sturdy stakes, in front of the first witch’s house, but there was a problem: they didn’t live next door to each other, and there was a third house in-between. This was going to be inconvenient. Unless…

The house’s owner wasn’t home, and there were no books inside, but he had, it turned out, drawn some scurrilous pictures of some of the town’s most prominent figures. So he was quickly found, and caught, but there was a wrinkle: he said that one of the town’s most highly-placed figures had paid him to make those drawings. The councilwoman wasn’t in the crowd, but by sheer good luck (of course) her ex-husband was, and he explained to the horrified onlookers that, indeed, his ex-wife had been a witch, and, of course, the moment he found out, he left her, but he feared her too much to reveal the truth, until now, in this moment, when at last witches were being revealed…

It was then that the first witch’s house began to smoke.

“Sorcery!” cried the townspeople—but no; it was simply someone who’d grown impatient with talk. And the crowd might have debated the wisdom of this act—some started to say it was rash, some started to say it was overdue—when they smelled smoke. The Council Hall was on fire. The crowd rushed over, and standing in front was the woman who’d almost won the election three times. “They’re witches all!” she screamed. And some began to question her, when, again, they smelled smoke.

It turned out that many had gone into the witch-burning, house-igniting business, because they realized they could finally reveal all the witches among them. Did they realize that, while they scorched the homes of monsters, someone else was bunching kindling around the homes they’d just left?

Who would have thought the whole town was made of witches? But it was, and it’s a good thing that they burned it down.

For so, too, were all the farms on the outskirts of town, feuding since time immemorial, each witches, under careful watch by others, and so was the tax-collector, and so was the nearby Embassy, and the whole town up the road had always been suspicious, and…

…it’s fortunate that this is just a story. For human beings are rational, and they hate Evil and its ilk; they are not petty, not driven by little grievances, not sly or obscure about their motives. Whoever would burn down a neighbor’s house falsely? No-one, for they would surely know that, in such a world, someone could, in the very same way, burn your house.

This was the town that burned the witch; this was the witch-burning that burned the town; this was the town-burning that set the countryside aflame; this was the flaming countryside that consumed the cities; these were the smoldering cities that blew huge sparks in all direction; that was the kingdom that burned to the ground, and the survivors had learned a valuable lesson: There must be a lot of witches in the world.

Never had so many flames lit the night; but never had visibility been so poor, for in every eye, and in every set of lungs, there were great fistfuls of soot.

And if it’s hard, so hard for the survivors to breathe, at least it’s a cleansing blackness in the center of their lungs.

Jeff Mach


 

My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities and create things. Every year, I put on Evil Expo, the Greatest Place in the World to be a Villain. I also write a lot of fantasy and science fiction.. You can get most of my books right here. Go ahead, pre-order I HATE Your Prophecy“. It may make you into a bad person, but I can live with that.

 

Witch Hunter’s Dilemma

Recently, the formerly-esteemed roles of Witch-Hunters throughout the known world (which extends, as it always has, all the way from one side of this village, right past the village next to it, and into that one village that you can kind-of see in the distance, the one where we go, once every few months, for Market Day; oh, we’ve heard rumour that there’s more in the world than this, but you know us. We’re very smart, and never ever fall for rumours)—

—the office of Witch-Hunters has been rocked by the newly-revealed knowledge that so many Hunters were, themselves, Witches.

And now people want to attack the Witch-Hunters, want to say they’re all Witches. As a Witch, I resent this in general; not every Witch is the kind of Wicked Witch of whom you’ve heard horrible stories (isn’t it convenient that, theoretically, the Wickedest Witch we know is unable to argue her case, by virtue of having been killed by a plummeting residential building?)

But as a former Witch-Hunter, I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak. It won’t make me popular; but popularity was never what I sought, and therein lies the challenge.

People have put forth the idea that the office of Witch-Hunter is the ideal place for a Witch to hide; who suspects the Hunter of being the monster?

But this is true only in one of two disturbing scenarios:

  1. Witch-Hunters are incompetent. The challenge, in said scenario, is this: if the Hunters, those who have literally trained for generations, honed their skills, written books, taught each other, created and used and promulgated technologies for catching Witches, are actually terrible at doing so…it is only reasonable to assume that the rest of us are worse at it. Sure, there are certain disciplines wherein academic knowledge fails to live up to the power of practical understanding. But Hunters hunt; they don’t just sit around writing papers on the subject. (Although, admittedly, most of the ones who write about the theory without engaging in the practice…they do deserve our skepticism.) Which leads us to the other possibility:
  2. Witch-Hunters have always been a secret plot by Witches; they have never had good intentions. But if this is the case… then why are we trusting anything they’ve told us about Witchery? If their actual goal is opposite their stated goal, then we can’t go around trusting their stated reasons, either. If we’re calling into question the integrity of Witch-Hunters, then it brings us to the uncomfortable idea that the Witches themselves might not be monstrous. Certainly, it would be a devious and terrifying plot for all those capturers-of-spellcasters to have been a diversion; but it’s a pretty stupid diversion for those who are supposedly cunning. Witch-hunters promote Witch-hunting, make their coin at the trade, lecture constantly about the need to do it. It’s far more complicated, and far less effective, than simply spending one’s time explaining that not all Witches are, in fact, intentional makers-of-pain, that, in fact, Witches are no more prone to it than anyone else.

“But,” you say, “the Mob seeks victims. The Mob wants guilt, not innocence. Perhaps they might have acted better, were they not spurred on by the Mob.”

If this is true, then we ought to ask: who, exactly, is the Rage Mob?

Why, it is no-one, of course.

Just ask.

Did an army ravage the countryside under the brutal rule of The Dictator? Why, it wasn’t any of us.

Who burned all those people who turned out to have never been any kind of Witch? Oh, not us. In fact, we always wanted to help, we were just afraid of The Mob.

Who believed the Witch-Hunters? Not us, it was all the other fools. We always knew there was something fishy, while the idiots over there only saw it after Hunters were all discredited. (And having discredited this group, we say, “The problem is solved!” Until we find someone else to blame.)

Do I hate Witch-Hunters? I do; and while I know that I was lied-to, deceived, and betrayed, it doesn’t change the things I did as a Hunter, and I need to answer for them. I hate Witch-Hunters for what they did to me, and for what I hoped they would be, and what they actually are.

But let’s not get too sanctimonious here.

The fact is, as long as any of us are willing to hide behind the anonymity of the Mob, we are all one rumour away from having the Mob turn on us.

All we need do is stop fearing the Mob, and it will lose its power over us.

…and I wish you good luck with that. Me, I’m going to build a raft and float somewhere without any humans. I’ll probably get eaten by sea-monsters, but I’m okay with that. I’d rather die for being what I am (in this case, “made out of meat”)—than be slain on the rumour that I’m something I am not.

~Jeff Mach

 


My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities, put on events, and make stories come into being. I also tweet a lot over @darklordjournal.

I write books. You should read them!

My new book, “I Hate Your Time Machine”, is now available! Go pick it up!

A Small Response To The Owl’s Eye Blog

As a note for those who don’t know me:

I am sometimes accused of just about the most horrible things possible. There’s a blog which actively collects/encourages/creates allegations about Jeff Mach. Depending on how you read it, some see it as incontrovertible proof that I’m evil; some see it as incontrovertible proof that some people have a huge grudge and no evidence.

I’m not going to spend much time, now or in the future, talking about the Owl’s Eye Blog. I think this is a moment when it’s essential to address and clear up some basic misconceptions. But in general, we are looking to help make a better community, not stand around arguing. I’m going to speak my truth, and this needs to be said:

I’m NOT a rapist. I’m NOT an abuser. I’m NOT a “predator”. And putting together a hate blog doesn’t make me those things.

I spent over 20 years building communities. I helped fandom businesses thrive. I helped people find performers, performers find an audience, helped vendors grow. And–like a fan-run company should–we paid out the majority of the company’s income to staff, performers, creators, contractors, sound and light, the people who made the events happen.

I was extremely active in the kink community. I was outspoken in a lot of areas pertaining to consent. When that community started to get hit with a deluge of complaints about consent, I was one of the most visible people around and, in particular, I’d been outspoken about the need to believe accusations.

But I’d always tempered that with the need to investigate allegations, as well. Believing the accuser means not shaming the accuser, not dismissing the accuser–it does not mean that every anonymous allegation on social media is true.

One of the ugliest things about all of this is that in collecting a mass list of any story it could find, from anywhere, removing them from context and inserting its own opinions (“It seems to me this story means…”) – sources like the Owl’s Eye Blog have made it pretty damn impossible for me to speak to and address anyone who might have been in any way hurt by anything that I did. Their voices have been drowned out, not by me, but by the flood of invective that’s been hurled around.

I thought that by being silent, I would let any voices that needed to be heard come to the fore. Instead, in my period of silence, there’s been a flood of angry noise, and an overwhelming pattern of creating fear.

Fear of me; fear of peoples’ political rivals; fear of anyone who opposed these blogs and the people behind then. It’s nearly the end of 2019; by now, you almost certainly know people who are afraid to come forward with their stories because they fear not matching the right narrative or not saying the right thing; you know people who’ve been hurt by Internet fury; you know people who’ve been damaged by this mob behavior.

Let me put some core pieces on the table.

I’m not a predator, an abuser, or a monster. And do you know what made me start coming forward about that? When I saw that those words weren’t being used just to hurt *me*. They were being used to hurt *anyone* who fell out of favor. My name was attached to events I wasn’t running to try to sink those events. It was being thrown at people to keep them in line with particular groups or cliques. Have the kink communities, the Steampunk community, any fandom communities been the same since this went down? No. Have they been better, now that I’ve been away? No. They have not.

Have I stolen a bunch of money, made it “disappear”? HELL. NO. Simplest proof? THAT wouldn’t be a rumor; that would be a crime. If you bought tickets, bought vendor space, bought sponsorships, you almost certainly did so via credit cards or checks; a fairly small percentage of people bought tickets at the door in cash, but that’s the vast minority of our business. And that’s been investigated quite thoroughly.

The value of a cake is not in the flour or the water or the eggs; it’s in the cake. The value of a painting isn’t in a pigment; it’s in the painting. The value in events is in those events. This is part of why people who have a real stake in a fandom-sized event do not cancel that event. It takes people who truly believe that they are canceling someone ELSE’S event, that THEY won’t be held accountable, to cancel an event.

You know what? I was prepared to own whatever names people wanted to throw at me, and live a quiet life, if I hadn’t watched whole events get torched within a few months of what initially happened to me.

I’m not here to save the event world. I’m not perfect, and I’ve never claimed to be. I am a person who wants the same things I’ve always wanted: to try to make better fan communities, and to try to run events and make a living for myself and others. I want to fix whatever I can, improve whatever I can, and build whatever we can build with our crazy fandom dreams. But I’m also someone who’s been put through the wringer by an angry social media world, and I’ve come out the other side. And THAT means I’m not afraid of social media mobs anymore. And that, in turn, means it’s my job to stand up to Internet bullying–yours, mine, anyone’s. You’d do the same thing in my position.

I won’t be bullied. I won’t tolerate the bullying of others. I WILL, absolutely, have respectful conversations with anyone who wants to talk, and I WILL seek, now and in the coming years, a chance to address and right any wrongs, and fix and change and improve anything I can.

And I WILL keep putting on events, keep writing books, keep making art, and keep speaking my truth.

very truly yours,

Jeff Mach

Cancel Culture’s Lies of Omission

When I was part of Cancel Culture, instead of a heretic and a whistleblower, the basic logic seemed sound: if you were sufficiently indoctrinated with Cancel Culture dogma, you knew that the legal system did nothing but fail those who needed it most, that the law had never helped anyone, and the only thing keeping us safe was vigilante justice.

(Nevermind how many oppressed and marginalized people, how many vulnerable people, how many innocent humans had their lives destroyed by what we used to call “Judge Lynch”⁠—this time it would be different, because the right people were running the mob.)

(A note for future generations: Mobs always say this. And it’s basically always a lie. Don’t take me at my word – Google it for yourself.)

Let’s assume the “right” people run those rage mobs (they don’t, but let’s assume.)

Let’s assume their causes and beliefs are ‘correct’, and have the effects they desire (they don’t.)

Let’s assume the mob can do a lot of things the law cannot (they can!) and that giving the mob that power has, both historically and recently, been a good idea (nope; see Emmett Till, Leo Frank, Ricardo and Alfredo Flores – just to name a couple) –

even if we assume all of these things, let’s just look at a really simple fact:

When you tell half a story, you change the meaning of the whole tale.

Say your professor was lecturing about famous white supremacists, and said, “We must never forget how horrific the white supremacy and various bigotries of the KKK have been, and how they succeeded in terrorizing many people, organized with single-minded efficiency to harm lives, and had the harming lives, and were able, for many years, to accomplish their mission of terrorizing and killing people.”

And you tweeted, “Today, my professor said, “The KKK was a successful, efficient organization with many accomplishments.”

You’ve completely changed the meaning of what your professor said. In fact, you’ve basically reversed that message.

But it would make a great, viral message, stirring up plenty of outrage. People would compliment you for your bravery in coming forward about it, and it would be taken as proof that the world is full of monsters.

Only you, your classmates, and the professor would know it was not true. And nobody would believe your professor–the doctrine’s already in place that one doesn’t speak to, or reason with, monsters. Your classmates might know, but who’d speak up? Who wants to be seen as aligning themselves with your monstrous professor? Who wants to take that level of heat, trying to explains what really happened? If people are already willing to believe the worst, and they are, why would they want to hear a contradicting narrative?

Half a narrative is very convincing. But once we remove any obligation to write something more complete, once was say that we need to believe in the horrors without questioning where they came from–worse, once we say that asking the speaker to detail those horrors is an act of aggression against the speaker, that the speaker cannot tell the full truth lest they become the target of some form of retaliation–

We build a framework of lies.

And one unquestionable lie is an ugly thing. Because you can pile any number of greater lies on top of it, and call it true.

In this case, the speaker is a liar. And anyone who has thought through this process will recognize, not all those who speak are liars, but that we need to require proof from those who speak, or we’ll encourage the ever-greater, ever-expanding power of liars.

And that hurts everyone who is trying to tell difficult truths. It hurts those with the courage to speak, those with the courage to listen. Know whom it doesn’t hurt?

The liars. The liars get off with nary a scratch.

The intentions are good here. But validating lies of omission doesn’t help victims, and it doesn’t help prevent predators.

It just gives a different kind of tool to a different kind of predator.

Take warning.

An Absolute Refutation Of False Allegations Towards Jeff Mach, My Friends, My Work, and My Life

A refutation of the false allegations against Jeff Mach; a refutation of cancel culture and 'consent culture

On the false allegations against me (Jeff Mach): a declaration of purpose:

(First, a note: For those tired of hearing these things, I’m sorry. I can assure you that, unfortunately, I do not bring these things up because I am living in the past; I bring them up because they are hurting quite a lot of people other than myself, right now, this minute. So please, bear with me – in fact, read on, and share.)

For two years, I’ve fought like hell to avoid saying, “These allegations are false, and they aren’t simply a problem for me; the ‘consent culture’ and ‘cancel cultures’ I once served are large-scale destructive forces, whose benefits and positives, if they exist, are obliterated by their followers’ adamant insistence that there ARE no flaws, there ARE no negatives, and anyone who says otherwise IS the problem.”

Because it is, and has always been my belief, that over the course of 20 years in public life, I have made mistakes. I surely must have hurt people sometimes without knowing (and if, sometimes, people hurt me on a larger scale than normal, that’s part of being a public figure). I have worked to keep that door open, to try not to erase the voices of those who might really want to speak.

But that choice no longer exists. My holding back has not lessened anyone’s pain; it has only emboldened those whose loud, toxic certainty that I am a monster has drowned out any other quiet, hopeful voices.

The door is always open to those who want to come to me, or a neutral third party, or a mutual friend, or a mediator–whatever you want, within reason–to talk about these things.

But my own time fighting with one arm tied behind my back, my time holding my tongue, my time keeping the guilty secrets of the #cancellation mob and the ugly secrets of the so-called consentistas–that’s done, done, DONE.

From this day forward, I will be a speaker on cancel culture and broken ‘consent culture. I will appear on your news show, blog, or podcast, as long as I have a reasonable expectation that I’ll be given a fair chance to speak. I will write and speak my truth. And whether or not people censor me, ‘deplatform’ my work, or try (despicably) to harm me by hurting innocent members of the community – I will not be stopped. You could take away every piece of social media I have, and I will write more books; you could take away my books, and I will take my message, one on one, to every individual, every publisher, every journalist, every place where it is appropriate to speak one’s mind.

Cancel culture is broken, and it needs to be replaced by conversation, discussion, and an understanding of human imperfection. It needs to be destroyed, because it no longer helps those it swore to protect.

Along the way, I will write a lot of funny tweets, create fun events, sing songs, tell jokes, laugh at myself, and try to bring into the world some entertainment, some joy, and some humor. Nobody needs a humorless moral crusader, certain of his own rightness; but we sure as hell need people who’ll stand up to the mob.

And I will stand up to the mob. Not because I’m a hero (I am a Villain, and don’t you forget it!) – but because they have already cast me into the fire, and now, I am no longer afraid to burn. The fire in the soul is blazing.

This will be an adventure, my friends. Not a humorless moral crusade, not a moralizing, preachy political message, but a massive battle against an implacable foe against impossible odds.

And it’s a deadly serious subject, but Gods, we’re going to have some fun on this adventure.

Dearest Cancel Culture:

I, and my friends, and the silent thousands you have hurt, terrified, gaslighted, maligned, and otherwise harmed, we are your extinction-level meteor.

BRACE FOR IMPACT!

yours very truly,

Jeff Mach
Dark Lord,
ex-Witch-Hunter,
ex-Consentista,

Cancellation Introduction: Notes From An Archfiend

Hello. My name is Jeff Mach, and as I write this, we’re about a week past the two-year anniversary of my initial internet mobbing, a sudden, well-coordinated attack which began with a number of anonymous allegations, and has gone from a point of being horrifying and implausible, to surreal and impossible. (If I were the worst person on Earth, I couldn’t have done half the things of which I’m accused; I’d need vast resources and a time machine. I don’t think there’s a James Bond villain with the ability to commit the vast swathe of weird atrocities attached to my name. But all those things are stories for another time.

Having gone through the blistering, healing fires of social callout, “cancellation”, and mass online attack, I am in what I sincerely feel is a very lucky position:

Unlike the vast majority of people in the Internet age, I am no longer afraid that I’ll suddenly be targeted by an angry online mob.

And the reason is that I already have been.

And that’s important, because, like any life-changingly negative experience, part of what empowers online mobbing is simply the fear it inspires. We look at those who get mobbed, and whether or not we like that person, we say, “I’m glad it’s not me.”

That’s a large part of what gives the mob its power: nobody wants to be next.

Cancel Culture, being an irrational and misguided force, often holds self-contradictory beliefs. So, for example, it regularly maintains two guiding principles  which are essentially incompatible: that Cancellation powerful and strong and worth doing; and also, that it’s nowhere near enough. It will hold up anyone who’s been Canceled and say, “Hey, look: this is what happens if you mess with us, so keep your mouth shut and don’t piss us off.” And then it will also say, “Notice that the Canceled person is still alive/has only lost money/is still tweeting/still has a job/isn’t dead; stop claiming that Cancel Culture is hurtful.”

It’s more accurate to say that online mobbing is destructive, dangerous, and (while proponents deny this) has played a role in more than one suicide. It is dangerous.

But also: online mobbing is survivable. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not the end of your life (or at least, it doesn’t have to be).

The destructive power of Cancel Culture matters because in the end, it suffers the same fatal problem of any mobbing: mobs are angry, emotional, scared people attacking things they perceive as threats, not necessarily with good reason (or even any real reason). And throughout history, this has meant that, no matter how well-intentioned the participants in the mob might be, it will, at least sometimes, be weaponized by those who have no-one’s best interests at heart but their own. Or to put it more bluntly: I’d love to believe that 99 people out of 100 are well-intentioned, ‘good’ people who only attack others when they feel it is absolutely necessary.

That’s probably a rather optimistic estimate; I’d say that, if given an opportunity to hurt someone you dislike, with no real likelihood that they can strike back or even find out who you are, the percentage of people who’d be tempted to use vigilante ‘justice’ for their own ends is probably quite a lot higher. But even if my rather arbitrary guess of “one person in a hundred” is true, online mobs are triggered by, and consist of, several hundred or even thousands of people. Some of those people are going to have their own agendas. That’s not pessimism or cynicism; that’s just math.

This is the comforting lie which lets people participate in Cancel Culture, sincerely believing that they are safe and they’re doing the right thing: “Only bad people need to be afraid; I and mine will be okay.”

This is the dark underbelly of that idea: no matter who you are, somebody thinks you’re a bad person right now. And you probably know this.

And darker still is this ugly point of Cancel Culture: throughout history, people have been part of mobs, not always because they believed, not always because they thought the mob was right, but because they know (rightly) that the mob can and will turn on them if they step out of line.

This blog is, for now, a collection of my thoughts on Cancel Culture. But if you take nothing else away from this writing, I offer you these two things:

  1. Mobs are not tools of justice. Sometimes they are tools of justified outrage, sometimes they accomplish positive change, but the history of mobs is literal centuries of destruction of the undeserving, and takeover by the unkind. They are not “The People”; they are one of the ways The People get hurt.
  2. Internet mobs are worth fearing. But you can survive them, thrive, and be happier for it. I can, I did, and I am.

-Jeff Mach