Today I was picking my kids up from their first day of preschool and I grabbed then some snacks and let them play on the playground when I got a text message from a friend telling me that The Den of Nerds YouTube channel was covering the Rian Johnson/Mike Zeroh story and they were, in the opinion of my friend, dumping on me. I watched the video and I think it is kind of funny that they are dying to have everyone on their show from nutbag alt-right YouTubers to Mike Zeroh himself. Instead of reaching out to me, they have a discussion about me where they assume what I would say. A lot of the time, they’re in the area of accuracy but not always. They also makes some assumptions that I find to be critical errors in their reasoning. At the end of their video when they discuss my scoop of about the live action TV show, they treat the story as a general rumor because of people Mike Zeroh who just lift information without citation.
The value in The Den of Nerds video to me is that it represents the side of fandom that is confused about why anyone is treating Mike Zeroh as the joke he is and why anyone is annoyed with his continual lying about Star Wars and his consistent thievery.
Zeroh credibility, Zeroh accuracy
YouTuber Mike Zeroh is a fraud and justifying his behavior is ethically questionable. I know some will say if you don’t believe his channel or you don’t like his channel, don’t watch it. That simplification is neither realistic or responsible. The idea that you can tell YouTube you don’t like something or a channel and it stops giving you that content just isn’t true. YouTube is either broken or always “testing” something to make sure the most vile content rises to the top.
How many times have we heard people say that Super Shadow fooled them back in the day? A lot. I can also tell you that I do get emails to the site and to my podcast Now, This is Podcasting! about the content Mike Zeroh puts out by people that are fooled by him. If Zeroh was doing cinéma vérité or an Andy Kaufman style show about the absurdities of fandom discourse and people got fooled, that would be one thing. I used to hope that was the case, to be honest. But Mike Zeroh is literally lying to Star Wars fans because he doesn’t respect anyone or anything.
Johnson responds to baseless rumors
You’ll see channels like Geeks and Gamers talk about Rian Johnson insulting “THE FANS.” Or about how Kathleen Kennedy is not doing right by “THE FANS.” Yet these channels and people defending Mike Zeroh are completely cool with Zeroh lying to Star Wars fan’s faces. It is also worth noting that the Geeks and Gamers scene of channels had no problem casting a shadow of doubt that Loan Tran was bullied off the internet. But once a white dude like Mike Zeroh gets lightly ribbed by Rian Johnson he has been bullied and it is unacceptable.
In my opinion, Rian Johnson didn’t “punch down” as those types of guys will say he did. Mike Zeroh runs videos explicitly claiming Rian has been removed from future Star Wars projects and fans asked Rian if it was true. Rian set the record straight and made a comment to essentially warn people not to take that source seriously. Zeroh literally makes up lies about Rian, a real person, losing their job. Rian is also accessible. Some of these creators aren’t but he is. The dude hung out at Star Wars Celebration with fans for like 4 hours and has been extremely forthcoming on Twitter. It would not be hard to even attempt to reach out for a comment on the story. But it isn’t about truth. The people criticizing Rian for his comment don’t care about him or Mike Zeroh, they care that he made a movie with values they find opposed to their own (essentially diversity, equality, honesty, humility, and the basic tenants of a hero).
I don’t care if Rian made a Star Wars film or how much money he has. If you make up lies about someone and all they do is laugh off your credibility (which is a joke) and make a light reference to the crew using your alias as a synonym (Zeroh is not his real last name in case you’re wondering), that’s pretty well reasoned and extremely nice of Rian. I have nothing but respect for the director. I think he made a good film, but regardless of my opinion, I know he worked his ass to make sure the movie was the best film he could make and I think you would be hard pressed to find a directior in this franchise that has been more involved with our culture than Rian Johnson. You can dislike his film and still respect his integrity. Anyone trying to make that guy a villain while making Mike Zeroh an innocent victim while he makes up lies to hundreds of thousands of people has severe issues.
I don’t for a second hate YouTube as a platform for Star Wars. Large channels such as Hello Greedo and Star Wars Explained have proven for years how that platform can be used enthusiastically to make honest if not sincere content about this thing we love (and occasionally drives us crazy). If there was anything I would call the opposite of those two channels, it would probably Mike Zeroh’s videos.
Zeroh and Making Star Wars
Mike Zeroh never had a video on my page because from my vantage point, it was always pretty obvious he was a fraud. And I do agree that to an extent, if you continue to consume his content and think his video about Snoke being an acronym for Sith No One Knew Existed is quality content, to each his own. But that’s not the end of the issue. If the issue was theorizing, there would be nothing wrong with his channel. In fact, Zeroh could have just made his channel a theory channel, not pretended to have sources, and he would probably be just about where he is today. But instead Mike Zeroh deceives his gullible viewers. I think integrity matters. Tricking Star Wars fans is a shitty thing to do and in the process of just making shit up he casts a shadow of doubt on the people that bust their ass to actually bring legitimate scoops, not to mention the people’s theories he just plagiarizes.
When I first encountered Zeroh, I didn’t know if he was simply a productive idiot or a unscrupulous monster. I can tell you he lifted a video from my YouTube page without citation. When asked to cite the work that took a team of people to get in place, shoot, and publish, he ghosted us. Then he stole a second video and added a disclaimer that this content doesn’t belong to MakingStarWars.net, we just put it out. YouTube disagreed and he got two copyright strikes against him. After that he began citing us, but only because he feared getting a third strike (which was weird because he would only get the strike if he lifted content that we put out, not the information itself). It was unnecessary for Zeroh to stoop to stealing. I would have given him the video myself for a citation, because then we would all “win.”
In the weeks that followed, there was a lot of humorous things that went on as Zeroh tried to strike back at me. He left a lot of bad comments on my YouTube channel and other places. He also did it to channels associated with me. However, Mike Zeroh being the idiot he is usually did it on the wrong YouTube account, deleted the comment and reposted it from a sock account. However, at that time I had email alerts on so I was sent the receipts of the comments he posted from his channel.
Positive spoiler culture is based in truth
Spoilers, rumors, and scoops is a complicated terrain to traverse. I believe when you’re accurate, you’re representing the film in question in an accurate light. The consumers who want to know then know what to expect, expectations are put in line, and fans who want to know get to discuss and ponder the meaning of those ideas for some time, rather than opening weekend. I feel like the whole thing builds enthusiasm, allows for esoteric minutia to be analyzed and considered. Then the film comes out and as a fan we process what ideas pertained, what landed and what didn’t. For me and spoiler friendly fans, it is a process and part of our enthusiasm.
I believe when you’re inaccurate, you’re putting words in the content creator’s mouths. You’re holding them up like a puppet and when the wrong scoops are dumb, it disappoints fans for no reason. When the made up scoops sound rad because they’re just fan servicing ideas that tell the fanbase what they want to hear, never mind that the idea would ever fit into a story structure that would resemble anything close to a good movie, it sets the future up for failure in the minds of those consumers of Star Wars content.
In The Den of Nerds video, they make the claim that my words divide rather than unite the fandom. That’s a wonderful thesis and a beautiful idea, but the YouTubers that feel divided by my words who you’re talking about aren’t Star Wars fans. They’re people using the ComicsGate method of monetization of the fandom by being vile assholes. Mike Zeroh is probably about to be indoctrinated into that side of things as they embrace him because they can use him as an effigy of the fans being attacked by creators. There is a TRUE divide. I believe in equality, diversity/representation, and the idea anyone can be the next Luke Skywalker. I also feel that the fandom itself should be that way too. These people don’t want that. These are the people that call my wife a “fake geek girl”. These are the people that helped justify the treatment of Loan Tran online. Of course these people would embrace Mike Zeroh, the truth doesn’t matter to them.
I’m not trying to paint myself as a symbol of virtue. I’m quick to anger. I lose my patience with people. I’m no Jedi. But if the Star Wars train is leaving the station and you follow me, everyone is getting on that wants to be there and accepts everyone that is respectful, and good spirited. This train has room for people from all walks of life from the LGBTQ community to people of any culture or background not commonly thought of as the standard Star Wars consumer.
If the Star Wars community doesn’t put a high value on truth, it doesn’t deserve to exist. It doesn’t deserve to be a culture if it has such weak values that we’re post-truth. Why do I work as hard as I do to get the truth? I could just read Reddit for two hours, embellish someone else’s theory or scoop to be more profitable and have stories coming out of my site’s ass 24/7. That’s easy. What I do is hard. What I do requires organization, critical thinking, the ability to mobilize people, start conversations in the discourse I want the answers to and most of all love Star Wars and keep my enthusiasm for it genuine and real.
My readers, viewers, and listeners trust that I am doing the best job I can. I think they’re also banking on the fact that if I’m wrong, my mistake is sincere. I can say without question that I’m not perfect. I have got a ton of important things right and the things I got wrong, I can justify.
There are times I feel like a fishermen casting my line out into the water, hoping to catch something to feed my friends and fans. Sometimes I catch a big fish. Sometimes I’m at sea for weeks until I get a nibble. But when someone like Mike Zeroh just lies and say he’s got fish in the barrel, it is insulting to the hard work that is actually conducted and I would say it is Zeroh who is dividing the community with lies and deceit.
Every story I get, I don’t publish. I usually refrain from posting about set drama. Everyone has bad days at work, I’m not really interested in making that bad day into history. Most of the time, when it comes to firings, out of respect for the person being fired on the huge pop culture stage of Star Wars, I don’t have any desire to play a part in the humiliation of that artist. Mike Zeroh even pretending to be in the know of these issues and reporting on them is disgusting to me. All of the YouTube channels doing this is terrible (hey, wasn’t Kathleen Kennedy supposed to fired by September?).
Why does Mike Zeroh deserve a pass when he defames innocent people? Why does Mike Zeroh get a pass when lies to Star Wars fans? Why is Mike Zeroh a “victim” because someone associated with the making of the film said his name in a way much nicer than it deserves to be uttered? Why does the truth and accuracy not matter? Well, it matters to me and that’s why I think Mike Zeroh as a channel and as a fan are complete trash. I think in reporting, fandom, and art all that matters is honesty or it has very little value.
Mike Zeroh is trash.
Mine isn’t the only opinion on Zeroh that leans this way. To hear it from a YouTuber a part of the same community as Mike Zeroh, check out Urban Alcolyte’s very good video below.