April 18th was quite an extraordinary day for UKIP and for Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin as a press conference became an ill-tempered affair that simply demonstrated how unfit for politics the Youtuber is.
I suspect that in the mind of one man–Carl Benjamin, also known as Sargon of Akkad–UKIP’s press conference on April 18th was a defining moment. It was the point when he would throw off the shackles of ‘mainstream media’ and make his political ascendency. He would announce himself as a contender for UKIP in the forthcoming EU elections.
To the rest of us, the press conference, called by UKIP let’s not forget, was an utter farce. A circus led by three clowns–chief amongst them, Benjamin. Not the UKIP leader, but very much at the wheel for this event.
From the moment Benjamin stomped on stage, it was clear to me that this was a man itching for a fight. He may believe that the bombastic style which entertains his audience of nearly 1 million on Youtube would work in a political environment too.
He was badly wrong.
Rather than come across as a firebrand, a political force to be reckoned with, Benjamin– a candidate for South West England in the European elections– came across as a bellowing, stamping petulant child. This is a demeanour that those who have followed his vlogs and social media accounts for some time were not unfamiliar with, I’m sure.
In an outburst live-streamed on Youtube last year, Benjamin shouted that critics of his were “white n*ggers” and should try “acting like white people.” The diatribe, for which Benjamin refuse to apologise, saw his Patreon account suspended– costing him donations from over 9,000 fans.
MEP candidate Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin
“I just can’t be bothered with people who chose to treat me like this. It’s really annoying. Like, I — . You’re acting like a bunch of n******, just so you know. You act like white n******. Exactly how you describe black people acting is the impression I get dealing with the Alt Right. Look, you carry on, but don’t expect me to then have a debate with one of your f******.…Like why would I bother Maybe you’re just acting like a n****r, mate? Have you considered that? Do you think white people act like this? White people are meant to be polite and respectful to one another, and you guys can’t even act like white people, it’s really amazing to me.”
Perhaps the tone for the press-event had been set by media interactions witnessed by Benjamin preceding the event. It was clear from several media engagements that Gerard Batten had engaged in, that the press was not ready to move on from a tweet which Benjamin sent to Labour MP Jess Phillips in 2016.
That ‘rape tweet’ isn’t going to be forgotten any time soon
In at least two high-profile television interviews in the seven days prior to the press conference, Batten had been questioned about Carl’s tweet to Labour MP Jess Phillips–shown above.
In an interview on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, Batten was forthcoming. He described Carl tweeting “I wouldn’t even rape you” at Phillips as an act of satire. Quite what Benjamin was satirising Batten didn’t explain.
By the time Batten sat down for an interview with Sky News he was clearly less enthused to be dealing with Benjamin’s indiscretions. When host, Kate McCann asked him about the tweet, saying: “On the rape joke, you said it was a satirical comment. What did you mean by that?”
He responded: “Well, go and ask Carl Benjamin. This is a three-year-old tweet that he did in the context of some Twitter trolling that people were doing.”
McCann pushed him further, prompting Batten to say: “how many times are you going to ask me the same question?” Before adding: “thank you very much” and abruptly ending the interview.
If the question of the tweet was wearing Batten down, Benjamin seemed simultaneously unconcerned and determined to keep it in the spotlight.
In a tweet to a long-term critic–Dr Kristi Winters–Carl stated that he ‘wouldn’t even rape’ her either.
Winters has made a concerted effort to collect the comments Carl has made during his time in the spotlight so that journalists and voters can view them without the risk of them being removed in a ‘face-saving’ effort by Benjamin.
That channel can be found here and evidence that the ‘Backworldsman’ twitter account actually belongs to Carl–who has been repeatedly banned from the platform–is here.
There is little else Benjamin could do at the moment to demonstrate that he is not remotely repentant about his interaction with Phillips. But, as far as I am concerned, this also demonstrates that he couldn’t care much about becoming a massive thorn in Batten’s side and that he has no intention of toeing the party line.
This refusal to fall in line was also displayed in the press conference when McCann questioned Carl himself about the tweet. If Batten’s approach had been to dismiss the tweet as satire, Sargon clearly didn’t get the memo.
When asked what made the act acceptable, Benjamin didn’t fall back on the limits of humour or his right to satirise. Rather, he insisted, Phillps had deserved the abuse because she was being “a giant bitch.”
‘I think we should treat women the same as men. ‘That means if a woman is being a giant bitch and laughing at male suicide, I’m going to be a giant dick back to her.’-Carl Benjamin (18/04/19)
Responding to the allegation that she was “laughing at male suicide” –which she strenuously denies is the case–Phillips states she intends to seek legal advice.
I doubt Benjamin understands why the tweet is the cause of such outrage. When he protests that it isn’t a threat he spectacularly misses the point of what it actually is.
Twitter user Megan McCann succinctly points out the issue with the statement: “Saying that you “wouldn’t even rape” a person implies there are some people that you would rape.
“‘ I wouldn’t even rape her’ or ‘Who’d rape you, anyway?’ perpetuates the myth that rape is about attraction.”
As Phillips herself notes of that tweet, it will really dog Carl until he retreats from politics. The fact that he’s repeatedly doubled down on it and has steadfastly refused to admit wrongdoing has assured that.
Benjamin’s main hindrance to understanding the issue with his conduct seems to be his massive ego. A quality on full display at the UKIP press conference.
Ego of Akkad
From the moment Benjamin began to address the gathered press, it seemed quite clear to me that this was the Carl-show. It wasn’t about policy or the party. It was about what he thinks are slights against his character. He makes his disdain for journalists abundantly clear.
Upon being asked why he had chosen to run as an MEP he scolded the press: “I’m not answering your questions. I’m not apologising for anything you dirty, dirty smear merchants.”
He insisted that if people wanted to know what positions he holds they could simply visit his Youtube channel rather than rely on the word of the media, who he claimed: “Don’t know what he believes.”
He eloquently added: “Get bent,” before telling the journalists he was only there to mock them. I certainly hope UKIP donors are OK forking out money just for Carl’s amusement.
With the risk of sounding somewhat condescending, isn’t that the point of a press conference, to put forward one’s position and answer questions? Had Carl informed Batten of his stance, would it not strike the UKIP leader that the act of calling the press conference in the first place is somewhat futile?
Benjamin continued his diatribe by claiming that the legacy press was ‘dying’ –ignoring the fact that the decline in print-sales has been dwarfed by the increase in online engagement for the same institutions.
All this created the image of a man who has allowed online success go to his head in a very pronounced and damaging way. Sargon may well be an internet celebrity, but this incident will be the first time that many members of both the press and the voting public will have noticed him.
His Youtube following of 1 million people is certainly impressive, but the question is how many of those followers are positioned to vote for him? After all, it’s only his followers in Swindon South that have any power to make this Youtube success story successful in the polls.
And Benjamin may well be off to an extremely poor start in that respect.
Tears of a clown
The introduction of Carl Benjamin and his fellow Youtuber Markus ‘Count Dankula’ Meechan–most famously known for a hate-crime conviction after teaching a pug to salute at phrases such as ‘gas the jews’–has already caused consternation amongst the UKIP faithful.
This was amplified as calls for Batten to deselect Benjamin were led by UKIP members in his own constituency.
The party’s Swindon branch chairman Aubrey Attwater told the BBC he wanted to see Mr Benjamin deselected as an MEP candidate.
Attwater said: “UKIP Swindon wants absolutely nothing to do with Carl Benjamin or his websites.
“His appearance is not doing UKIP any favours.”
What may be most telling about this endeavour as a whole is visible not in the reaction of the press, the celebrities who have taken to social media to condemn Carl or political pundits shocked by his pure aggression–it’s in the demeanour of Markus Meechan, stood at his side.
At several points, the Scotsman, who considers himself a comedian, looks anything but amused. His shoulders hunched, a frown on his face and frequently putting his head in his hands and laughing uncomfortably–he looks like a man who would rather be anywhere else but on this stage.
His appearance at times is that of a naughty school-boy in the headmaster’s office–cowed but cautious not to lose face too much. This isn’t “Dank” or “the Count” as his fans refer to him–it’s Markus Meechan. With the bravado of the unflappable ‘king of bants’ cracking, he looks like a man who has realised with painful acuity that the joke has gone too far.
That is the visage of one conflicted clown who sees his vehicle of mockery heading toward a steep drop.