D&D Hatchet Job, Part 2


Categories: GeekStuff Personal

UPDATE: New data showed up, and I've changed my conclusions on some aspects of this. Most noticably, Mandy Morbid has accused Zak of abusing her, and I have [posted some initial thoughts on that](/log/post/2019/02/14/the-zak-update/), but suffice it to say, I do at this point think I have credible evidence that Zak is in fact abusive in serious and important ways.

Okay, this is where it gets funny. Remember the allegations about Zak's supporters attacking people? I defended Zak, so... One of the charming idiots is now accusing me of being transphobic. The number of problems with this is difficult to articulate, but it's a positive number.


As you and others are asking for further proof of what the article claims, some due to skepticism for various reasons, others because they are fans of the individuals accused, I am providing several examples of harassment on the part of Zak S, as well as explanations as to why neither of the sources linked in your post are valid evidence.

Read More

… aaaand putting them behind a Read More so we can’t actually respond to them without elaborate extra cut and paste. Thanks! (EDIT: Later posts suggest that they don't intend that effect, so this is just tumblr's UI betraying everyone.)

It’s nice to see that this piece is just as dishonest as the others. Well done! And now that you’ve got me on the list of people to tell lies about, I get to have extra fun. Thanks!

As you and others are asking for further proof of what the article claims, some due to skepticism for various reasons, others because they are fans of the individuals accused, I am providing several examples of harassment on the part of Zak S, as well as explanations as to why neither of the sources linked in your post are valid evidence.

EDIT: I forgot to point out the unsupported assertion that people are “asking for further proof” because they are fans. Accusing people of dishonesty without evidence is sleazy.

First, the posts you linked. While it was the second one linked, I am going to start with Mandy’s post. See, D&D With Pornstars is Zak’s website. Mandy is (or was) Zak’s girlfriend. Besides her bias here, it is highly unlikely that Zak would allow criticism of himself onto his own site.

I’m really confused. Mandy’s piece is posted on her own blog, and furthermore, if you seriously expect me to believe that Zak either could or would prevent Mandy from saying anything, under any circumstances, you are going to have to provide some evidence. Furthermore, you’ve just reinvented the rule that the accused may not speak in their own defense. That is a bad rule and it is absolutely not a valid rule. And since there’s nothing indicating which post you’re referring to, this is all very confusing; the only one I’m aware of is on Mandy’s tumblr.

If “bias” is an issue, then we’re done here, because the original hatchet job was very clearly “biased” against Zak and Pundit, and therefore invalid.

So basically, this is not only not in any way a rebuttal, it’s a sleazy way to make the insulting implication that Zak would try to censor Mandy. I don’t think there’s any basis for that. You also seem to be confused, because so far as I can tell, Mandy’s article is on tumblr, which is not part of Zak’s site. There’s also the question of why the “(or was)” qualifier; seems totally out of the blue.

Besides that, however, this post was actually already covered. It is the one referenced in the article, where a trans person is outed (the one subsequently reposted by Fred Hicks). Mandy posted the individual’s old name, new name, and even their online handles; it was as thorough an outing as could be done short of including an address as well. While some of the information was later edited out after numerous people called her out, Mandy publicly and knowingly outed a trans individual who had already been harassed and stalked by Zak and his fans.

This is a summary so bad that I cannot seriously believe that it is sincere.

There are several problems here. First, you’re repeating in passing the unsupported claim that the person in question had been “harassed and stalked by Zak and his fans”. Because you used “and” as the qualifiers on both sides, you are now making an assertion that Zak both stalked and harassed them, and also that Zak’s fans both stalked and harassed them. Those are serious claims, and you should be filing a fucking police report if you seriously think these terms are accurate. But strangely, I don’t think that’ll happen, and I don’t think we’ll see any evidence.

Now on to the alleged outing. I got curious about this, so I tested the claim. Here’s my methodology: I asked a friend who was unaware of these events to, if she had a moment, look up who does game design for the company in question, and get back to me. I picked her because she herself is trans, meaning (1) she’s likely to be alert to the possibility of someone being trans, (2) she’s going to be sensitive to outing as a concept.

She came back with the observation that there was a person who appeared to have one of two names, and possibly one of them was a pseudonym. So I explained that someone had been accused of “outing” them. Her response:

"My analysis is that if this person doesn’t want to have those identities conflated, they’re doing a poor job of segregating them.\ If they /are/ trans, they don’t seem to be inclined to make much of the issue."

But let’s look at the famed G+ thread where someone first turned “using two names” into “outed as trans”:

"+Veles Svitlychny It’s only your posts that have told me that the person you’re discussing is transgender. I didn’t realize that from Mandy’s post, just this thread. If you want to protect them from being outed, you’re working against that goal here."

Other comments appear to suggest that the person allegedly outed was not, in fact, closeted.

If you were to go to that company’s website, and download some of their stuff, you would still find things using the old name. There is no segregation here. There is no closet. And honestly, I don’t even actually know that they’re trans. I’m just assuming that probably you guys aren’t lying about that. But nothing I’ve seen is actually really evidence for that, and since it’s none of my business, I don’t care. But the fact is, Mandy does not appear to have “outed” anyone.

Maybe what we need here is a sort of informal poll. Is there anyone reading this who knows who we’re talking about, and would assert that listing both of the names under which they are credited for works on their site, plus a couple of forum handles, is “outing” them? Ideally, someone who’s actually trans and has actually thought about what constitutes “being outed”?

Because everyone trans I’ve talked to so far has said that if you’ve got publication credits under two names, and they’re in print, and you’re not making any effort to hide that, then that’s pretty much not segregated at all, and it’s not “outing” to refer to the names, especially if you don’t assert that the person is trans. Especially with publication credits.

Meanwhile, Seeb’s posts. I’m kind of amazed anyone is taking them seriously; those posts are ridiculously hyperbolic and, rather than addressing what the article is saying, quibble with how it is said. It is nothing but tone and bad faith arguments, with “evidence” being links to Zak and Pundit, rather than any outside sources. They are rambling, borderline-incoherent, and blatantly biased, only citing the people being accused of transphobia and other actions, as if they would up and say “oh yes I am transphobic”. It is hard to find a more biased source if you tried.

I am pretty sure they’re not hyperbolic. It’s true that I put a lot of focus on how things are said. That’s because there are writing techniques which are exclusively used for deception. When writing is highly manipulative and deceptive, that’s pretty good evidence that the writing is in fact dishonest, and that its claims are probably false.

I think the issue here is: I actually investigated, at all, and found zero evidence of anyone actually supporting the allegations that Zak was transphobic. I found quite a bit of evidence of the form of, say, friends of his who are trans saying they are pretty sure he is not. Why don’t we see any actual support for the claim?

Answer: No one believed that claim to begin with, it was picked only because it’s a claim tumblrites will pass on without fact-checking.

And then there’s Seebs defending Mandy’s above post, arguing that it is okay to out trans people under certain circumstances. That is not me twisting their argument; according to Seebs, it is alright to out a trans person under the right circumstances. This argument is especially disingenuous because, as stated in the Fail Forward article, this person left the RPG industry due to all the harassment, and yet Seebs is saying that people may need to know their new name and link it to their old one so that they can look up their old work if they like the new work. You know, the new work that isn’t coming, because they were harassed out of the industry. And then, to add insult to injury, they drop this line at the end: “In which case, great, I’m hurting the careers of all the trans folks I’m carefully not outing.“ This is literally, explicitly saying that not outing trans people hurts them, which is simply disgusting.

Well, that’s a huge pack of lies. How about, just for variety, we do the thing you people can never do, and look at the actual words a person said instead of the dishonest misrepresentation of them.

The actual thing I said: “If you sincerely believe that someone is out, and they have publication credits or other work history under a name, it’s not necessarily inappropriate to mention or list the previous name.”

Note: If you sincerely believe that someone is out. Emphasis mine, added because apparently Mister Liarpants here cannot see these words unless they are bolded more.

The comment about “hurting the careers” was in reference to a specific hypothetical scenario. The key point? If someone is publishing under two names, it may hurt them if I carefully avoid referring to those names. Because they might want their fans to know about their other work. And it wasn’t the end. The post went on for some disance. Including another key paragraph:

"I don’t think this has a good answer. It does have an answer I would have recommended, which would be to ask the designer first. But the fact that we’re talking about a “game designer” tends to make me think professional contexts, and if you have existing work published in multiple names, that happens.”

But that’s all contingent on that first thing: Do you actually think they are already out? Because it’s not “outing” someone to acknowledge a thing that they are making no secret of.

This is a pretty spectacularly shitty set of lies to tell, and frankly, I would point out that you are absolutely twisting my words. Here’s the trick: I was talking about “using both names for someone” as a thing which is “not necessarily okay”. You, however, substituted in the phrase “outing someone”. Using both of someone’s names does not necessarily out them. For two reasons; first, because they may already be out, in which case they can’t be outed. Second, because people don’t necessarily assume that someone who writes under a pen name is trans.

Oh, and it’s been asserted that they left the RPG industry “due to all the harassment”. Sources? Is there anything from this person saying that they have left the RPG industry? Their Patreon site was still up and accepting money last I saw. Did they even assert that they thought they had been “outed”?

Since you’re all up and accusing me of being transphobic, well. To the IM client! Where I have 8 tabs open, 5 of whom are trans, 2 of whom are still awake. (9 tabs, but two of them are the same person. I feel 5/8 people is more accurate than 6/9 tabs.) (EDIT: I had said 4/8, but I miscounted. Sheesh.)

Candidate \#1:

"I understand how they reached that conclusion.
\ Imagine if your post lacked this sentence:
\ It does have an answer I would have recommended, which would be to ask the designer first.
\ which, I’m noticing, the person seems to think your post ends on the line above it
\ I can see how someone in a sufficiently emotionally charged place could get that reading from what you wrote.
\ I can’t really comment on whether or not this person is honestly in such a state.”

Candidate \#2:

"They have lied directly, they have lied by omitting context, and they have lied by selective quoting and mischaracterization. Were this 1814 rather than 2014, you would likely be socially obligated to challenge them to a duel."

So, one feels that you absolutely lied, the other thinks it is possible that if you were in an emotionally-charged state and didn’t actually read the whole post it would be possible for you to reach that conclusion. And you know what? I think I’m going to trust the people who have actually had to deal with outing as a problem a little more than I’m going to trust some random jerk on the Internet who didn’t even bother to find out what my gender was.

So, the people testifying that Zak is not transphobic are his (former?) girlfriend who outed a trans person, and a blatant Zak fan who defends outing trans people. These are clearly not the people one should be consulting on such issues, at least in my opinion.

This is several kinds of lie, stacked together. Perhaps most importantly, there have been repeated links throughout this to a trans woman who games with Zak. Oh, look! An actual trans woman who knows Zak and says, in her own words: “I have not found him to be transphobic or anything he has done to be transphobic.”

And she goes on from there. Worth reading in the unlikely event that you actually care about facts, rather than hatchet jobs.

But of course, there’s other problems. First off, I wasn’t a Zak fan when I started this. If you were to actually do your research, you would find that I wrote a number of posts in which I asserted that he was a toxic asshole. I’ve edited some of them to tone it down because I now believe that I was mistaken about that. Now, I admit that you guys have gotten me somewhat convinced that he’s pretty okay, and when I actually emailed him to ask what he thinks about things, we chatted some, and I sorta like the guy. But as of when I wrote that gigantic article? I was not a “Zak fan”. I was someone who thought he was less of an asshole than the people attacking him.

Secondly, I’ve not defended outing trans people. I’ve distinguished between “outing trans people” and “referring to someone under both of the names they are still shipping books under, when you think they are already out.”

EDIT: Third observation: What's the "(former?)" qualifier doing here? Zak and Mandy were obviously still together as of quite recently, and they've been together for 8 years. This assertion seems to have no possible place, unless it's intended as preemptive gloating about Mandy being hospitalized.

Now, for my proof that Zak is in fact as the article says he is, engaging in both harassment and transphobic behavior, among other things. I have several examples here; while they are far from the only ones, I feel that they sufficiently illustrate my point. Two of these examples were found by someone else, while the third I ended up personally involved in as it was targeted at people I consider to be friends.

First, we have Zak responding to Tom Hatfield, author of the Fail Forward article. Tom is talking about the post Mandy wrote above; Zak, seeing this, comes in and claims that the individual in question is not actually trans. Not only is this disgusting and reprehensible in and of itself, he goes on to speak of “actual LGBT people”. Apparently, Zak believes that it is he who decides who is actually LGBT, rather than, you know, the LGBT people in question.

No, Zak does not claim the individual in question is not actually trans. What he says is “That’s a canard in order to suppress the voice of actual LGBT people speaking on this.” He does not assert that the person in question isn’t trans. He asserts that the accusations of transphobia are being used to silence actual LGBT people. Like, say, Mandy. Whom you’ve very aggressively dismissed and attacked. (Okay, technically I am making assumptions here, in that I assume someone who is dating at least one guy and at least one girl is probably LGBT.) Or Scrap Princess, whose very existence you’ve denied. And yes, you really did. You stated that the only people defending Zak were me and Mandy. Scrap Princess is not me, and is not Mandy.

Zak is not claiming the authority to decide who is or isn’t trans. He’s suggesting that people who aren’t LGBT and are weaponizing the LGBT folks they aren’t even willing to listen to are not as qualified to speak on the topic as the actual LGBT people that you and others have been disregarding or saying no one should listen to.

Bring in an actual claim from the person whose names were used saying that they felt this outed them, and you’ll at least have the beginnings of a case. Without that, you’ve got nothing. I’ve seen similar conversations in which the person who was allegedly “outed” was actually mad, not at the person who allegedly outed them, but at the people who tried to make a big deal about it and called way more attention to it.

Second, we have a testimony here from a person who was harassed and stalked by Zak and his followers. Not only does she attest to being harassed herself, she also talks of harassment others received, including cyberstalking, and refers to Zak’s “enemies list”, which we will get to shortly. Zak has also used an apology of hers as a defense against criticism, despite it having little to do with what he is actually being accused of. He is using her as a shield and a weapon against those who attempt to criticize him, which is a disgusting act of bigotry and not an indicator of a person who truly cares about making the hobby more inclusive.

Are you planning a giant wedding or something? Because this malicious misrepresentation seriously takes all sorts of cake.

This “testimony” is a small snippet taken out of a much larger post. Instead of linking to the actual post, you link to a misleading and dishonest mis-summary of it.

The actual post says:

"But I made it earlier than I would have liked in part because Zak was repeatedly calling me a liar and demanding I show evidence and give names, and because several of his supporters made (admittedly ludicrous) legal threats, and I didn’t want to go on his enemies list and see my real name (publically available) go up with the other designers he regularly attacks right as I was about to enter publishing. So my apology was prompted by my moral code, self-doubt, and a bit of cowardice that I’m embarrassed about."

See, the problem here is: It’s not “harassment” or “stalking” to repeatedly call someone a liar when they have publically posted lies about you. Which is, in fact, what had happened, which is why the apology in question was posted at all. The stuff that came from “Zak’s supporters” is significantly more problematic… but you can’t actually prevent idiots from trying to “support” you. Zak has at least one asked people not to do that. Not sure what else is expected.

What’s important here is that the main message of the apology is that, in fact, when she investigated and went and talked to people she found that no one had a single piece of evidence of allegedly transphobic behavior, and people had a lot of evidence to the contrary.

The third thing requires a bit of explanation. Months ago, James Desborough, an RPG designer with a history of threatening and harassing people who disagree with him, was accused of making rape threats against female RPG fans. This resulted in, among other things, fellow RPG designer Ben Lehman to make a post about this on his Google+ page. A third person, John Stavropoulos, decided to investigate these claims; however, rather than do things like consult people involved in this (including, say, those claiming to have received these threats), John limited his investigation solely to things like Desborough’s posts on his own website. Eventually, he concluded that he could find no proof of these threats, and made reference to “potentially false allegations “ in his chastisement of those who claimed to be threatened. However, at the least, he also admitted that his not finding proof did not necessarily mean there wasn’t any, and he refused to name names so as to not cause more harassment or create a “witch hunt”.

This is where Zak comes in. Reading John’s report, he saw fit to make his own post, demanding that everyone who *1’d the post (the G* equivalent of liking it) remove their +1, calling them liars and saying they owe the RPG community an apology. He also listed their names, saying if they wanted their names removed, they had to remove their +1’s from the post. The text of this post is copied here, minus the names; while I have a copy of the original post, for obvious reasons I do not see fit to share the real names of people who have already been receiving harassment to the Internet at large.

So, to summarize: You think it is okay to make accusations that someone has made rape threats, without any evidence. In the previous tellings of this, perhaps most importantly, I’ve not actually seen assertions that Ben’s post was based on anyone having claimed to receive such threats. There’s nothing indicating that such things actually happened, and a lot of people have acknowledged that, in fact, they don’t have any particular reason to beleive that they did.

False accusations are a big deal. Your writing here tries to cast doubt on the falsehood of the accusations, but stops short of giving any reason to believe that they were true, or even that the original writer sincerely believed them to be true.

Zak proceeded to share this post with two groups:

1.Some of the people on the list. Note the “some”; despite the demands he was making and that he was sharing their names, he did not see fit to inform all of the people he was making said demands of.

2\. His fans.

As one would expect, the people listed there began receiving threats. Phone calls, emails, rape threats, death threats. The works. Many of these people (at the time almost eighty, though the number fluctuated as some people un-+1’d the post and others flocked to +1 it in solidarity after the harassment began) had no idea why they were being harassed, as, again, Zak did not even bother to inform all of them before he sent their names to his followers. Eventually, Lehman edited his post, removing his letter and begging the people to stop the harassment. It did not stop, however; even though the thing they were angry about was gone, the harassment continued, as Zak kept his post with their names on it up.

Wow, that’s awesome. Your response to Zak being hostile to unsupported and apparently false allegations of rape threats is to make allegations of “rape threats, death threats”. With no specific targets, but also with no supporting evidence. Let’s just try the simple check: Did any of these people call the police about these threats? Because seriously, that is like step one if you get death threats or rape threats. If you actually get them.

There are multiple sources corroborating this incident; while the original post was hidden from the public and may have been deleted, there exist this and other copies of it. Besides those, Zeea’s post above references Zak’s “enemies list “ and the risk of having her name publicly shared, and likewise Tracy Hurley has a couple posts where both she and other people mention harassment over +1ing a post, with one person (a Zak and Pundit defender at that) even referring to “the James Des list”. (Said posts are also relevant to this article as they concern the other individual involved, the RPG Pundit, and harassment on his part that was acknowledged by Mike Mearls and called “disgusting and infuriating”.) Likewise, this article on misogyny in geek circles also talks about Zak, including a screenshot of this same list, and is a good read besides as it goes into misogyny and other such things on Zak’s part that aren’t covered here.

I spent some time going over Tracy’s post. What’s interesting is that it does show a lot of evidence of people being rude in forums, but never comes even close to supporting any harassment claims, except by bald assertion. “Look, here’s a mean post on a forum. Now do you see why people are afraid to come forward?” That’s not harassment, though.

(Bonus, also courtesy of Tracy Hurley: Zak using the phrase “fantastically marginalized” as a positive thing.)

And again, you link to something other than the actual source.

The actual source, some ways down the page. Zak says: “4. My argument is: the RPG community is doing fantastically well the morons have been fantastically marginalized and are squabbling with each other. Do you disagree?”

The key here is that the term “morons” is not referring to a protected class or a minority; it’s referring to a group of people Zak disagrees with and considers stupid. In modern politics, many groups, such as the KKK and the neo-nazis, are “fantastically marginalized”, and that is a wonderful thing. The term “marginalized” has meanings other than the usual sense of “oppressed group”, and this is clearly one of those.

Why, oh why, can’t you people even make a good-faith effort to accurately characterize things? The only reason that comes to mind is that you literally cannot find a single thing to say for your cause that isn’t dishonest or unpersuasive.

For fuck’s sake. At this point I’m half tempted to write some criticisms of Zak’s behavior just because I’m sick of seeing you do it so incredibly badly.

So, in summary. The two people linked as evidence against Zak’s transphobic actions have themselves exhibited transphobic behavior. Zak has publicly denied the transness of an individual, harassed people, and called for others to harass people in what he himself referred to as a “witch hunt”. Among other things; these are just some examples of his behavior.

Does this qualify as enough research for you?


No? Possibly because it’s flagrant, outright, lies. Seriously, the substitution shenanigans of pretending that “it may not be outing someone to use both of their names” means “it’s okay to out people”? That’s not even remotely convincing. Would it have killed you to spend even three minutes checking up my history here? Hint: I’m not closeted, so you can’t out me. I do not have a gender identity which matches the assumptions people made about my gender identity when I was a kid.

What I actually stated, and stand by: If you believe someone is “out” and they are using two names, it is not “outing them” to refer to both of those names.
\ What you claimed I stated: “It is okay to out trans people.”

So we’re right back to crappy hatchet jobs, only you’re really stepping up your game in attacking implausible targets.

Edit: Further evidence, both Zak S and The RPG Pundit are now trying to have Tracy Hurley blacklisted from the RPG industry for speaking against them, after they engaged and started attacking her first. (Warning, content linked is full of misogynistic slurs aimed at Hurley.)

Nicely done! Content is indeed full of such slurs. From people who are neither Zak nor Pundit. So, basically, this just goes to undermine your assertions that they’re the problem. That’s really slick, though, how you talk about Zak and Pundit, and then warn people about the slurs, so as to make the naive reader imagine the slurs came from Zak or Pundit.

I do agree that Zak is arguing that Tracy Hurley should not be hired. I don’t think this is the same as “trying to have her blacklisted”, though. I believe there are people trying to get her blacklisted, and I do not approve of that, but I don’t think it’s Zak or Pundit. I also observe that he does actually link to a conversation as his evidence. I read that conversation as best I could, and frankly, I think a fair bit of it was them talking past each other, but honestly, yeah, I think she said some pretty crappy stuff to Mandy and ought to apologize for it. I don’t think her future employment should be contingent on it, though.

Oh no! I disagreed with Zak! I’d better go turn off all the phones before the swarm of internet stalkers hits!