Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Freyja Erlings (Goons on Trial pt 4)

 Part one here - Part two here - Part three here

If you want more in this series don't forget to vote by leaving a comment up there in Part One.


Freyja Erlings (aka Freyja Katra aka Freyja Catra aka Freyja Erlingsdottir aka other names back in the day) is the most aggressive harasser and conspiracy theorist in the online tabletop world period. She spreads antisemitic propaganda, she's racist as fuck, and--unusually for a goon--she's so shitty that major industry figures have actually shouted her out specifically. They remember her name.

There’s probably no better example of the double-standard at play in goon thinking that Freyja gets to be part of their club despite all the harm she's done to the community. 

  • Monte Cook called her a “real sad example of humanity”.
  • Bleeding Cool called her statements about other gamers “slanderous” and “libellous”.
  • Ryan Dancey, former president of D&D, sent a cease-and-desist letter threatening to sue her (which worked—she backed off) for trademark infringement.
  • On top of all that, Freyja singlehandedly started the Mike Mearls conspiracy theory literally only because after years of trolling Mike Mearls blocked her on Twitter:

Freyja needs me, a blogger, being in a position to "order" the creative head of D&D around to explain why someone would block her on Twitter?

Given all she's done, why would anyone, anywhere in any position, with any politics, with anything resembling a functioning value system, much less the head of the game she's constantly trashing not block Freyja on Twitter?

I don’t know, but there are a lot of people (unless they’re Nora Reed’s bots) who not only don’t block her but actually like and retweet her.


All those bullet-pointed things happened long before Freyja transitioned or expressed any desire to do so publicly (so you can't say Monte, Ryan, Bleeding Cool, etc are just being transphobic) and they also happened before Freyja went full-tilt and explicitly racist:

In addition to apparently being the patient-zero antisemite who invented the conspiracy theory that I have a trust fund*, Freyja has been complaining about flaws in D&D up-to-and-including crimes the game has supposedly committed against humanity itself for over a decade. Unlike the majority of the civilized world, she can’t bring herself to just not play it

It's one thing to come across a niche cultural product that you feel, rightly or wrongly, powerfully conflicts with your values, talk about it and move on. It's quite another to do that and then hang around in the niche for ten years afterward.

Freyja, an Icelandic woman as white as you'd expect, is basically the center of another hobby within the niche hobby dedicated to inventing conspiracy theories that D&D is bad for people of color, despite:

...many D&D players of color giving thoughtful interviews and writing eloquent essays about how D&D might interact with race which contradict every word of what Freyja says,

...Freyja having been online during the same time the original creators of D&D posted on forums in the zeroes, and therefore in a position to have engaged the creators in a conversation about this,

...Freyja sharing the online space with massive numbers of D&D players of color who she therefore could have engaged in a serious conversation about this,

...Freyja herself steadily harassing women of color in the hobby for years, very much including Michelle Ford (aka Connie) of D&D With Pornstars,

...Freyja never having had a real-life conversation with any player of color about D&D,

...and Freyja never having even played a real-life game with anyone who wasn’t white, so far as I am aware.

There’s a name for white people who propose elaborate ideas about what is and isn’t good for other people without meaningfully asking said people what they might have to say about it: racists.

This is all, of course, in addition to promoting the big conspiracy theory about me--a conspiracy theory which assumes that when a white woman disagrees with multiple women of color about basic facts then the women of color must be lying. Morever, this is a conspiracy theory which I successfully sued Freyja's RPG writing partner Ettin / Paul Matijevic over.

This didn't stop Freyja. The case proves she's wrong, the case proves there are real consequences to being wrong, and yet she just can't stop herself.


Many years ago Freyja was spewing some racist shit and I pointed out it was racist and, lord knows why, Freyja agreed to have a private conversation with me about the messages she was putting out in the game-o-sphere.

So we're going back and forth for a while (brusquely, but talking) and I asked an obvious and very basic question that literally any white person who might think of themselves as a social justice advocate should have considered long before ever opening their mouths:

What position do you, a white wannabe activist, take when the exact same piece of media is held up as being important, good, progressive and helpful by a large group of marginalized people and the exact same piece of media is simultaneously held up as being pernicious, evil, and retrograde by another large group from the same marginalized identity? For the same reasons?

Needless to say, Freyja dodged the question.

But the way Freyja dodged it was super weird: she wrote in ALL CAPS that I needed to google intersectionality theory and not bother her with such questions. I pointed out googling doesn't give me her answer to the question I asked. She said the same thing again and then she asked what my other questions were.

If this were on Twitter, that performance might not seem so bizarre, but remember: this was a private conversation that she agreed to have. There was nobody watching, there was no gallery of goons to impress with the force of her rage.

Why would someone voluntarily get into a conversation just to say something that the only person who can hear them could not possibly receive as persuasive?

It was like that scene in Kundun where Mao takes the Dalai Lama aside to quickly explain that Buddhism isn't a real thing. And seems sincerely to think: that'll just about do it. 

Even as an atheist, you just walk away going "Chairman are you ok?"

When the psychologist helping with this project looked over this (and everything else we've collected about Freyja so far) they said...

Nowadays, when patients, members of the general public, or even some students call someone else a "narcissist" it's just a fancier way of saying "crazy"--it's a catch-all for claiming that the other person did something they disapprove of. In cases like this I might ask a student: is there any kind of negative thing this "narcissist" would not do? Are there behaviors the label can't explain? When a non-mental-health professional uses the word that answer is usually "No" so it's a fairly unhelpful and dismissive way to use the label. Everyone has some kind of motive, even a narcissist, and empathy requires being able to describe motives and be curious about motives even it you can't agree with them.

In Freyja's case, though, there are signs that might indicate genuine Narcissistic Personality Disorder, even if we ignore the several DSM criteria for NPD that could be implied by statements Freyja might make just to try to sell her work online.

Specifically, narcissists often behave as if they've authentically forgot the person they're talking to has their own needs, point-of-view, or motives that differ from their own. They can be impatient with explaining themselves because they're not fully convinced of the others' need for explanation is based in anything real. In contrast to someone with anxiety, your insistence on interacting rather than just listening to her talking wouldn't necessarily even make her upset, it might not even occur to her that it meant anything. Narcissists are typically not curious about why anyone might differ from them. An important thing to remember is the narcissist is not only imposing their will on others, they often don't seem to remember that others they interact with even have a will. 

Some kinds of mental health problems make it hard for a patient to recognize rules or norms, but a key trait of a narcissist is acknowledging--and possibly even approving of--rules but somehow not realizing the rules apply to them. Criterion 5 in the DSM is "an unreasonable expectation of favorable treatment".

NPD would account for many of Freyja's specific quirks including the expectation (if it's sincere) that Mike Mearls would treat her differently than other trolls after all her public bad behavior, Freyja engaging in activist behavior while failing to seek guidance from the communities she's trying to represent, her apparently sincere assumption of automatic compliance, Freyja's continuing to engage in a behavior long after a close business partner was successfully sued for identical behavior, her inability to take questions as read, as well as her other reactions in that private conversation.


*Though I am not sure if she's responsible for the additional antisemitic lie that my dad's a lawyer--which detail is extra weird because both of these tend to be spread by people who also claim my legal briefs were not prepared by, like, lawyers. But then internet conspiracy theorists are not exactly known for logical consistency and the game community isn't exactly known for asking for it.


Benjamin Cusack said...

Glad to see this continuing - and this one is fascinating.
The reach and scope this person has had despite the very obvious flaws and transgressions speaks to how fragmented the community must be - or how conflict averse it must have been or continued to be.

That tweet was something I saw - and it is truly something else.

Good post, have you seen any responses from the other goons regarding your posts about them so far?

Zak Sabbath said...

@Benjamin Cusack

Yes, but nothing special.

Olivia Hill, for instance, reliably complains that screencapping what bad people do online is "not normal" or whatever--which amounts to her claiming that her victim has evidence.

Nora Reed rarely frames herself as a victim in an online conflict--her brand is a really important internet person who could not possibly be damaged by internet conflict, and prefers to refer to her victims as attacking some abstract "community".

Nickoten and Erika would have to acknowledge the criticism to address it and their entire schtick --like Skerples--depends on simply not acknowledging a criticism has been made (or that any facts contradicting any lie they told exist).

They tend ot address these things long after the fact by mis-quoting them to audiences (liek the OSR discord or Reddit) that either won't fact-check or are actively prevented by mods from fact-checking or publishing the results of the fact-check on the platform.

Other goons might pull the same trick but faster. They simply lie about what you said and count on their audience to be made of people too stupid to check or too cowardly to confront them.

Simon Tsevelev said...

Are Freyja and Hill really different people? They sound so much alike in so many ways. Like... they seem to be the opposite of two small people wearing a long coat and pretending to be one person.

Zak Sabbath said...


Well as noted in the first thing of the series goons act remarkably similar and have a lot in common, but there are differences over time:

Olivia talks a lot about creative decisions in her work, and responds constantly to anything happening in her life publicly--theres an endless stream of complaints and critiques coming out of her own situation with the woman she abused and the criticism shegets, etc.

Freyja is much more interested in overt mythmaking "I am this! I am that!" You can see her figuring out ways toframe each critique, what cliches to evoke, etc. The posts are more formulaic and oblique.

Both try hard to do political memes, but Olivia is a native speaker so its harder for her to find an audience.

A Freelance Historian said...

I’m consistently amazed at the kind of things that are allowed to happen within the RPG scene as a whole (OSR, Narrative, traditional etc. to varying degrees.) From the heavy handed moderation on the rpg.net where posters are lectured and there’s a rule against speaking in their own defense to RPG Twitter and there documented shenanigans.

And I constantly ask myself, what’s the dynamic that allows this to happen. What’s the factor that would allow an otherwise minor infection to put the patient in a hospital bed?

Zak Sabbath said...

@A Freelance Historian

It's not too complex, if you open a bar where--

-You get free drinks in exchange for attention
-and the best way to get attention is attack the bartenders

...then everyone either attacks the bartender or stays out of it because they don't want to get punched.

Or, to put it another way:

Every reason that you yourself Freelance Historian personally are not contacting likeminded people and organizing online right now to make all this -not- happen? That's the dynamic that allows this to happen.

Or, to put it yet another way:

Bad people have a short-term incentive to behave badly and good people have only long-term incentives to behave well.

Severed Fane said...

Has Mike Mearls every publicly commented on his involvement (or non-involvement) in everything, or defended himself to the claims about yours-and-his doxx'ing of others?

Zak Sabbath said...

@Severed Fane

Although Freyja's lie is about a thing they said happened in 2014 (when D&D's 5th edition was released), the specific lie itself was made up until five year later, in 2019.

By that time Mike was off social media and (very likely) under orders to say nothing from Hasbro about any public controversy ever.

The lie was invented in 2019 for reasons that are pretty obvious from Freyja's posts above: Freyja and co had reason to hate on official D&D and Freyja specifically had beef with Mike Mearls for blocking her, so she wanted to turn people harassing just me into people harassing D&D and Mike.

Let me emphasize:


WOTC hired Whitney Beltran, Ajit George and a whole bushel of known harassers everywhere in order to cleanse D&D of the shadow of an incident which -everyone at WOTC knew didn't happen-.

Like: they all know Mike and I weren't close or friends and Mike certainly wouldn't take orders from me, but they just wanted to dodge this snowball that Freyja got rolling.

A Freelance Historian said...

Touché. That’s a fair critique but I stay off of social media entirely for mental health reasons. It brings out the absolute worst in me. Like, frothing-at-the-mouth anger and that’s not a side of myself that I particularly want to encourage.

Honestly, having put some thought into it over the past few days, I think that the answer might be that. For game companies not to engage with their wider communities on these platforms when one word that can be taken the wrong way can disrupt the projects that they’ve been working on so dramatically. People like Justin Bieber and Nicky Minaj seem to have limited their Twitter engagement to teasing and promotion. Perhaps it’s time to stop trying to find the audience and let the audience find them for the simple reason that the potential risks are well outsize of the potential reward.

Zak Sabbath said...

@A FreeLance Historian

The problems of game publishers, Justin Bieber, and people who have had their lives entirely destroyed by people acting like sociopaths on the internet are three different sets of problems with three different sets of solutions.

I can only speak for myself and in my case the solution is immediate action on the internet by people who are concerned about the problem.

A Freelance Historian said...

I would argue that They have different problems but a common cause: An environment where everything is given the worst possible reading, redemption is impossible and allegations are automatically believed. Under such conditions, the only way to win is to not play.

Here is our new book, here’s what it’s about and here’s where you can get it. And if Freyja wants scream herself hoarse because she thinks that a book about an island full of Nomadic Elves is actually a colonialist screed, she quickly finds herself screaming at a metaphorical brick wall.

Zak Sabbath said...

@A Freelance Historian

If my problem were even -remotely- "I cannot publish a book" then that would makes some sense.

But, seriously, if you think the problem created by all the fake felony accusations smeared all over my google results is "Oh heavens I simply must publish a book"(or even "I simply must publish a book and make money in that way") then you haven't seriously thought even for a milisecond about what would happen to a person's life after the things that have been done to me were done to a person who gets googled for a living.

Please, -please-, think for a solid five minutes (set an alarm if necessary) step-by-step, in clear imaginative detail, about what would happen if you were in my position. Day one: thousands of people forward fake felony accusations. Think what happens on day 2 on day 3 on day 4, etc.

If, after that five minutes, come out of that thinking the main problem they've created for their victim is something as silly as being unable to publish a book or make money off a book or being stressed out, then feel free to ask.

But please do take that five minutes.

Zak Sabbath said...


Sorry, your comment's been erased--no anonymous comments allowed.