A week or two ago, I got a notification of a tweet of mine being quote retweeted over on Twitter. Surprisingly, it was from ButtonCheck aka Ernesto Lopez Jr., a Texas-based Youtuber whose channel acts as a sort of quick-hit news source for fighting game community-related topics mixed in with some personal commentary. Even stranger, it was for a tweet from two years ago, one that he wanted further clarification on:
The QRT was quickly deleted, and I imagine it had something to do with how old the tweet was. Ernesto offered to chat with me about it in the deleted tweet, but I’m not really owed anybody’s time, especially if they deleted the original tweet. While I’m more than capable of having a productive conversation, I’ve got my own pulpit, and it provides me an opportunity to clarify or expand upon my brief thoughts even better.
I think the best way to do that is to analyze a video of Ernesto’s, one that perfectly encapsulates the issues I discussed previously: his interview with Seon-woo “Infiltration” Lee from May 29th, 2022. This interview was done within a few weeks of Lee announcing that he had received written notice of his (until proven otherwise) permanent ban from every major FGC tournament (Evo, Combo Breaker, CEO, ECT, etc.), and only days after Capcom announced he was (until proven otherwise) permanently banned from their Pro Tour for Street Fighter V.
It’s very recent, and it’s something I have a long history with. I even wrote a Twitter thread about it, but obviously I can clarify more here.
Before I begin, I’d like to make a few things very clear:
- While I have a pretty low opinion of the house style for max engagement on YouTube (Clickbait thumbnail, react videos, daily uploads), it is nevertheless a perfectly legitimate business enterprise and, my biases aside, a significant cultural water cooler. My intent is not to make a broad attack on Ernesto’s character but instead a specific, annotated critique in good faith
- Longtime readers will likely know my general opinion of Infiltration, but to put it lightly, I’ve had some harsh critiques. Nevertheless, I will heed the advice he gives and only hold him to the words he says and actions he’s taken
- This is an interview done via a translator, so I’m aware that quoting Infiltration as is may not be fully accurate, but I’m working with what I’ve got
- Ernesto has zero obligation to respond or change what he’s doing, I’m just offering up my perspective in good faith, in the hopes that it might ring true to someone. This is in line with one of Ernesto’s stated goals on his channel, which is fostering different perspectives to present to his viewers (Here from 6:56 to 7:08)
With that out of the way, let’s dive in.
To preface a little, Ernesto has said that one of his goals with Button Check is to provide differing and opposing perspectives on news. Having watched a few hours of videos to prepare, I would say that generally, Ernesto sticks to his guns. Playing the neutral party that is concerned with wanting to have all the facts before judging is a noble if difficult goal; although it can be seen as opportunistic or clout-hungry, striking while the iron is hot on some controversy is the name of the game, like it or not. Sometimes he will actually refuse commentary from his own perspective until he can hear an opposing one, which is good!
I think where he tends to veer from that and say and do contradictory things, however, is his one-on-one interviews with FGC figures, such as this one with Infiltration. I’ll post the timestamped link to the video before I offer my commentary so if you can’t pull the video up, you can just pull up the clip. I encourage people to watch the full interview and then read this, but I’ll do my best to provide context if you’re stressed for time.
In the second question of the interview, Ernesto asks Infiltration why he, via Twitter, said his ban and the way it went down will “hurt the future of the FGC”. In his answer, Infiltration says that if there is “a misunderstanding or 1-sided opinion” and there is “no oversight on the bigger picture or the whole story,” it is possible for an organization like Evo to fall into the trap of making sweeping judgements based on “something very opposite to the truth.”
Here, I thought, was a prime missed opportunity. The best way to stay neutral when you only have one side represented is to echo the absent party’s statements and claims in such a way that the present party can accurately address those claims. No matter how vague the response was, we know that Evo and other tournaments said Infiltration was banned due to a ‘code of conduct violation’. Given his answer, it would seem that Infiltration believes that “something opposite to the truth” is being used as a justification for his ban. That code is public, so although we unfortunately have no transparency on what section was violated, we know there is a many potential violations that Infiltration could be referring to.
If Ernesto’s goal is to let Infiltration speak his version of the truth, I think the logical question then would be to have him answer what he believes his ban might have been for. What “1-sided opinion” can he not correct the record on? It’s not picking a side to ask the question, it’s asking him to clarify so he can explain why Evo was wrong. Left unchecked (ironic), the audience doesn’t really learn anything new, as Infiltration is restating something he has already made “walls of text” about on social media (source). If that’s the case, why does he need the platform at all? He’s got a much bigger following!
The third question asked by Ernesto is “Does it bother you to not get professional communication with such bans?” Good question, if already quasi-answered by the previous question. Infiltration’s response revolves around the term ‘community’ and how a cold response such as he got does not make him feel like he’s part of one. He goes on further to say that were this to be the standard method of communication, the FGC will evolve to a spectator sport, whereas it used to be that the “core of fighting game events” was that anyone could play, where people weren’t “discriminated for where they were from or what language they spoke.”
It’s a more general statement, but I think it’s interesting that Infiltration would invoke the word ‘discrimination’ here. Given that he previously talked about “1-sided opinions” and “misunderstandings”, it is easy to get the impression that Infiltration feels he was discriminated against in some fashion and that he does not want this to happen to other people. Which, naturally, would raise the question – does he feel discriminated against by these tournaments?
One could argue “Well of course he does, look at the past!”, but I don’t think that’s a sufficient response. If we’re being neutral, it’s important to let Infiltration explain himself about why he feels the way he does, and not to assume something is true first. Ernesto rarely pushes for these explanations, so Infiltration ends up restating a lot of his same points that he not only stated earlier in the interview, but that he has on social media, without further clarification that the long-form interview could provide.
This isn’t an issue with Infiltration, but I think Ernesto makes a very silly point here. In the buildup to his eventual question, he states that “In the last few years Twitter, I think, can give the FGC a false sense of reality, not just within our community but reality in general.” Speaking of a “battle” across the website, he goes on to say “people think they know the facts where people kind of just speak out of their ass and then you got people just saying we got to stop thinking like this”.
I don’t even necessarily disagree with the take, but I think when the vast vast majority of your YouTube channel is quite literally citing completely random, sometimes anonymous Twitter accounts to back up a story, this comes across as quite self-serving. I agree that you do try to present both sides of stories, but would it be wrong to think that maybe 90% of those are people talking out of their ass with nothing to back it up?
If Twitter users experience a false sense of reality, it likely has to do with the fact that the thoughts of unscrupulous, anonymous accounts with no statistically measurable following or influence are constantly validated across all forms of media. We have all complained about some annoying Buzzfeed article that incites outrage based on 5 tweets, but I think we’d all equally complain if someone who wrote such an article lamented that they did it!
Validating digital diarrhea as broad prescriptions for reality is a problem we all struggle with, Lord knows I’m not perfect here either. But I do try to remove myself from it by narrowing my critiques to certain standards and practices, such as you’re reading now. If one needs an example, here’s a video with a section where Ernesto takes Victor “Punk” Woodley’s claim of brackets being rigged at Evo, an extraordinary claim, and backs it with a Twitter post from another random user. Stones in glass houses, my friend.
If Ernesto was as concerned with rampant mob harassment across social media as he (and I) am, I would encourage that he be the change he wishes to see in the world and simply not feed into it with the same tactics.
But I digress. Moving on:
In answering the question on whether the FGC has a problem distinguishing between justice and mass harassment, Infiltration separates “The FGC” from “The Online FGC”. In the “Online FGC”, “people don’t remember that there are responsibilities to certain words you say or certain acts you do,” and a potential solution for that might be considering “whether what you are typing on your keyboard or smartphone is a sensible thing to do.”
Just remember this one, we’re going to come back to it later
Ernesto, en route to his good question about whether or not Infiltration had doubts about continuing to compete after his 2019 scandal, says “I don’t remember if you were banned or what you were banned for, or I think you made the decision to step down from Panda or something like that.”
None of that is true or accurate, and while I don’t expect him to be an expert on the situation, knowing the bare minimum is probably important. Infiltration has been talking about his struggles with perceived misinformation, and whether or not he’s being sincere I think it’s a good point. Hard to stay neutral when the facts aren’t straight.
Don’t have much commentary here, I think this is a good question and a good example of what this interview could have been. I think there are going to be a lot of people who uncharitably view this as crocodile tears or victimization, but it nevertheless humanizes Infiltration in a way Twitter can’t. I think that to Ernesto and Infiltration’s point, the problem with mass pile-ons or ruthless rumor-mongering via the court of public opinion is it can put a person on a pedestal or into the Earth’s mantle, where they become unknowable and unseeable. Bad place to be if you want to find something closer to the truth.
There’s some good here and some not so good. I think it’s good that Ernesto asked about Infiltration using a racial slur on his stream, and I appreciate that Infiltration both expressed remorse and made the distinction that this had nothing to do with why he was banned from several major tournaments, as this incident happened after that. People still do say that and it’s just not the case.
While that is good, notice that in Infiltration’s response, he says “It does come down to my fault…I fully understand there are people who took offense…it isn’t something I should lightly bring up”.
Scroll back up to point No. 4. You can see a consistency here – Infiltration recommends that people think before they speak or type, that there are responsibilities for the things people do and say, and now he says he gets why people are upset at him and that he should think before he speaks on a live stream again.
Remember that the people(s) behind Infiltration’s ban are not present so they can’t clarify what their vague statements meant, and we’re trying to be neutral here. Knowing that, I think it would be pertinent to ask Infiltration if he has the same consistency for his recent past words and actions that may have caused offense in some.
This dovetails back to the problem with not getting him to specify why he thinks he might have been banned, even though he clearly believes it was unjust. If we’re being good faith, part of that presumption of good faith is that Evo, while unprofessional and careless in their actions, did have an underlying reasoning behind what they did and it wasn’t random or discriminatory. I think it is not helpful or neutral to let that accusation slide without some gentle, mild pushback.
I would not recommend going into specifics, but I think this is another area where Ernesto ultimately not being as sharp with everything that went down in the past hurts again. A refresher would have revealed that Infiltration has a history of very vicious, almost threatening public statements towards people in the community that he inevitably walks back or deletes. This would be pertinent information in this interview that is partly about him realizing that words and actions have consequences.
If Ernesto were to have asked “Is there an unfair standard you have been held to for your words and actions?” or “What was the most important lesson you learned from previous public incidents?” after hearing his answer to this last question, I think that would be a fair, neutral assessment. From his own words, we know Infiltration feels that he has been unfairly discriminated against for an action, and we also know that he is capable of understanding that there are some instances where people take offense to words or actions you’ve done if you didn’t intend to. Why not follow the logic?
Ultimately, when a lot of these statements go unchecked or unexamined, I think it has the effect of saying to the audience that Evo’s ruling was arbitrary. That’s a fine opinion to have, and Ernesto clearly does (I sort of do too, for different reasons), but remember, his stated goal was neutrality. That means that whether you agree or don’t, you probably shouldn’t accept the framing that one side is giving you over the other. Just as it would be bad faith to ask Infiltration why he did bannable actions, it is bad faith to ask why Evo made a decision based on nothing. Clearly those are begging the question and in bad faith.
I find that many of the one-on-one interviews Ernesto has on his channel have a lot of the same issues I mentioned above, but the Infiltration one got all of them in one swoop – A presumption of neutrality that isn’t really followed up on, and a lack of checking statements that leads to the guests endlessly re-stating the position they’ve already staked out on their larger social media platforms that makes the interview sort of meaningless.
Do I believe that it’s ‘harmful’ for Ernesto to make these mistakes? No, absolutely not. I think it’s a bit reckless and can give the impression that these are only done for the short-term gains it gives his channel, but I don’t think it hurts people. I don’t want to be hyperbolic like many might be in this situation and say that, and I certainly don’t wish ill will on him or his channel. Believe it or not, I actually do admire that there is at least one place where people who feel they don’t get a fair shot can go and make their case.
Having said that, I think the people he tends to interview don’t really need it given the size of their social media audience, and even then I don’t know if anything new comes from them. You can be fair to people and still give some pushback, if only just to make sure they are addressing what’s actually in contention. If you don’t, I believe it gives the subtle impression that the guests are “right” and just haven’t been given ample enough time to respond, which does not follow Ernesto’s intended goals. The uncharitable read would be that these interviews are merely for the cynical use of these larger creators to boost his channel and whether or not they are substantive means nothing. I would prefer to believe that is only a small factor in the decision, but when you have multiple instances, it tends to look like a graph and not random points. Hope that isn’t the cas!
If he reads this, fair play to him. If not, no skin off my or his back. I’m sure his channel will continue to grow regardless, as it has been. My only thing would be that for every button check, there must be an equal or opposite button check. I hope I’ve provided that.