Now they tell us

Why hasn't the press broken the Dr Disrespect Twitch ban story?

Some illustrated elements by Sonny Ross; Wikimedia Commons

Hi! I’m Mikhail Klimentov. You may recognize me from my past video game coverage at The Washington Post, like my investigation into the “culture of fear” at TSM. In my previous article, I wrote about what it looks like when an esports team falls apart.

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In 2020, Dr Disrespect (real name: Guy Beahm) was one of the biggest personalities on the live streaming platform Twitch — both in terms of viewership and the tone of his content. Beahm affected a macho persona, decking himself out in tactical gear, Oakleys and coarse black wig. He was over-the-top in every way. A March 2020 feature in The Verge written about Beahm on the occasion of his signing an eight-figure exclusivity deal with Twitch opened with the sentence “Violence becomes him.”

Just three months later, Beahm was permanently banned from Twitch, a precipitous fall in what had looked like a breakout year for the streaming star. In the world of gaming, this was among the top stories of the year.1 The only problem? Nobody involved would say why exactly Beahm had been banned.

At the time, I was an editor at Launcher, The Washington Post’s video game and esports vertical. Of course we were chasing the story. Beahm had been poised to be the face of Twitch just as the platform was approaching its all-time high in terms of viewership hours.

But Twitch declined to respond to our questions and requests for comment, saying only that the platform reserved the right to take action if a streamer “acted in violation of our Community Guidelines or Terms of Service.”

I helped broker an interview between Beahm and one of Launcher’s writers, but that, too, yielded little insight. “Imagine showing up to work and the doors are closed and you can’t get inside,” Beahm told The Post. “You’re going, ‘What’s going on?’ And you’ve been told you’ve been fired. But you haven’t been told the reason why. We just weren’t given an answer.”2

On Friday, the public got an illusory first glimpse at the rumors surrounding Beahm’s ban.

“He got banned because got caught sexting a minor in the then existing Twitch whispers product. He was trying to meet up with her at TwitchCon. The powers that be could read in plain text,” wrote Cody Conners, a former Twitch employee of eight years, without naming anyone in his post.3 “Case closed, gang.”

(For the purposes of this newsletter, I’m treating every rumor/implied connection/allegation as just that: rumored, implied and alleged.)

We still don’t know anything for certain. Conners’s tweet doesn’t directly implicate Beahm (though Beahm later took to Twitter to say the matter was “settled,” adding that “no wrongdoing was acknowledged”).

But even before Beahm responded, everyone in the replies seemed to know who Conners appeared to be alluding to. The responses from journalists, industry insiders and gadflies also seemed to suggest that behind the scenes, some kind of alleged impropriety relating to a minor had been the going theory for some time.

“I can say that this is not the first time I have heard basically this explanation. nor is it the second, or third,” tweeted my former Launcher colleague Nathan Grayson.

Now, the public knows what some journalists have discussed amongst themselves in private gatherings, via DM, and in newsroom meetings with editors (who invariably said that the evidentiary bar for publication had not been met). Is that a good thing?

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Slasher’s tweet on the subject of the “evidentiary bar” is legendary.

On June 27, just hours after the news of Beahm’s Twitch ban broke,4 Rod “Slasher” Breslau — a popular esports journalist-turned-leaker-turned-analyst — took to social media to share these words:

look:” Breslau wrote. “for several hours now I have been told from credible sources the reason DrDisrespect has been banned. however due to the importance and sensitivity around the subject I have refrained from going on it. i don't feel comfortable with it currently”

On Friday, Breslau appeared to draw a link between what Conners had posted and the important and sensitive subject Breslau had tweeted about four years earlier.

“I didn't lie,” he tweeted, obliquely.

In 2020, however, Breslau’s tweet became a minor meme in the universe of people who might care about Dr Disrespect — and among those who sought an opportunity to get in a jab at Breslau, who can be prickly and acerbic online. (Not all of my conversations with Breslau have been on good terms.) Breslau, who had previously been a prolific leaker, had come across a story that he couldn’t seem to crack. The public wouldn’t let him forget it.

Breslau briefly withdrew from social media. In 2022, he told me that the “credible sources” post still weighed on him.

“i cannot continue my professional career until i release a story about doc,” Breslau wrote in a message to me. He described himself as experiencing something like executive disfunction: “im pretty bad at making decisions to begin with, and now ive just kind of stopped everything, in part because of this.”

From a professional journalistic standpoint, though, I’ve always thought that Breslau was on solid footing. In the aftermath of Conners’s tweet, some users have asked, rightly: “Why does it seem like everyone knew? Why didn’t anyone say anything?”

The truth is that inasmuch as it may seem that the story has advanced, we’re really still on square one. There’s a reason what we think we know came in the form of a vaguepost. Every journalist wants to be the one to nail this story — if it’s true. But not a single one has gathered the requisite sourcing to make it happen.

What does that mean? For a story like this to feel airtight, a journalist would want to talk to multiple sources with direct insight into what happened when Beahm was banned. It’s likely, however, that the group that made Twitch’s decision regarding Beahm was small and tight-knit. People in those positions often don’t see any upside in speaking with press — and indeed, fear the risks (professional blowback, legal issues, etc.) that might come with revealing internal secrets.5

And before a journalist can even have a conversation with such a source, they have to find that person. In a company like Twitch (which is owned by Amazon), identifying — and then reaching — the stakeholders who were involved in such a momentous decision is a huge task in an of itself.

(For more on this, Bloomberg News’s Jason Schreier wrote a helpful Reddit post explaining how a reporter might know something but not know it to a degree that would be acceptable to an editor. “If I had a dollar for every scoop I missed out on because I only had it from one source,” he explained, “I would have at least, I dunno, twenty dollars.”)

On the other side of the equation, I know that journalists at the Post and elsewhere sought public records relating to Beahm that might shed light on any reported criminal activity. We didn’t find anything. (Our vertical, Launcher, was shuttered in 2023).

Journalists who say they “knew” or “heard” something in the aftermath of a big public revelation or accusation aren’t showing off. If anything, their knowing should be treated as a statement of humility (even if it doesn’t look like one at first blush). “I couldn’t get this,” they’re saying. “I was working on it, but I couldn’t get it over the line.”

You are welcome to believe that the intentionally vague tweet from a former Twitch employee implicates popular streamer Dr Disrespect. Read whatever you’d like into Beahm’s very careful phrasing that “no wrongdoing was acknowledged.” I did not watch Dr Disrespect content before and I don’t intend to start now.

Still, one ambiguous tweet falls far short of the standard journalists aspire to. I don’t have a reason to distrust Conners, and I don’t mean to impugn his integrity here. But if I were on this beat now, I’d be looking for another, direct source. With any luck, the furor around Friday’s tweet will inspire the press to redouble its efforts to finally deliver the full truth.

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  1. If memory serves, one of our stories about Doc at The Washington Post was the most read story across the entire newspaper’s output the day that it came out.

  2. I kept trying to edit in the phrase “media-trained to a fault,” and my editor kept cutting it out. In retrospect, that was fair. Was Beahm being evasive, or was he genuinely shocked by the situation he was in? I really couldn’t say. I remember listening to the audio of the interview and feeling totally bewildered myself.

  3. I reached out to Conners seeking comment and haven’t heard back.

  4. It may, in fact, have been broken by Slasher himself.

  5. I will add here that I don’t have the legal background to weigh in on whether Twitch’s alleged behavior (in response to — I must stress! — rumored misconduct) was correct or not. I’ve seen a lot of chatter about crime and legal liability and “X should have reported Y to Z authority” and I just don’t feel qualified to touch that.