The Last Days of The ForceCast

In the interest of full disclosure, former ForceCast hosts Saf and Megan are contributors here at Tosche Station by way of hosting Western Reaches, one of our network’s podcasts. Because of that, I don’t want to speculate on any motivations as to why things unfolded the way they did. I want to cover the timeline of events as they unfolded as this has caused a tremendous amount of confusion among fandom. Additionally, I want to use the readily available information to pinpoint where things went wrong.

Logging this timeline gets tricky, because in addition to announcing the end of the ForceCast, all of the shows social media touchpoints were deactivated. Still, this is important to write down and have a history of. The ForceCast was one of the most important fandom touchpoints in not just Star Wars fandom, but all of genre entertainment. As such, there’s a need to document what led to its demise.

Ed. note 3/14: There’s been (understandably, I might add) some confusion over how this post was written. This post is broken down largely into two sections, a recap of the events and a post mortem analyzing why those events happened. The first section contains posts, tweets, images, and verbiage from the actors involved. The post mortem are my thoughts. 

February 29

Out of seemingly nowhere, it was announced content manager Erik was leaving, and that hosts Megan, Saf, and Paul were also departing the ForceCast.

The outgoing hosts said that the departures were due to the show changing direction under new showrunner Kyle Winner. It was also announced that Winner and Dave Bouressa would be taking over hosting duties of the weekly ForceCast show, with the stated intent of putting out content on a more regular basis.

A segment of fans express concern with the fact that the ForceCast, which had improved markedly over the last several years in diversity of on-air talent and in using their platform to promote diversity, was wholesale replacing the hosts. The biggest concern was that the two female hosts, Megan and Saf, were essentially being replaced with two men, a huge step backwards as far as representation on one of the highest profile podcasts in the Star Wars fandom is concerned.

Those concerns go largely unaddressed.

March 11

The new ForceCast debuts with Winner and Bouressa at the helm, and is met by mixed reviews. While some embrace the new format and promises of more frequent episodes, others express skepticism over the more FM radio like presentation. The biggest criticism, however, remains the regression on diversity with the hosts. It’s mentioned during the show a female personality would be introduced in the following week’s episode, but the sincerity of the move is questioned by listeners.

This criticism, replacing two female voices with two white men and a promise of eventually a token female personality*, is the most visible complaint of the show. Some of that critique may be construed as mean spirited, but much of it had a point: consciously dialing back the diversity on an established show is a sketchy thing to do. 

Ed. Note 3/14: It is difficult to determine how much of this criticism was actively directed towards ForceCast social media touchpoints now that they’ve been deactivated. Before the Facebook page went down, I could only spot one comment from a listener that expressed disappointment with the new direction. Through the evening of the eleventh, I couldn’t find much in the way of direct @ mentions towards the ForceCast Twitter account either. Criticism seemed localized to small social circles conversing amongst themselves, meaning the hosts would have had to either be following those users or would have had to utilize the Twitter search feature to find said criticism. While disappointment was palpable if you looked for it, I was unable to find any examples of outright hostility towards the ForceCast touchpoints that evening. 

*Clarifying: The general sentiment among critics that this was a token presence largely has to do with the perceived lack of sincerity by the new show runners as far as diversity and representation goes. This wasn’t a term that I supplied, but one that was utilized by critics. I’ve used it here to accurately show what Winner, Bouressa, and company were responding to.

March 12

Things begin getting strange around 2AM when host and show runner Kyle Winner tweets the following.

unravel

It’s a thinly veiled retort towards criticisms about the new ForceCast’s lack of diversity. By around 8AM Eastern the next morning, an image of that tweet (since deleted) have begun to make its way around my timeline. A number of people express annoyance and disapproval over the tweet, but apart from some tweets directed at the ForceCast Twitter account conveying that disapproval, not much seems to come of it. 

The reaction changes later that morning, when the following is posted to the ForceCast’s Facebook page by Bailey, who is supposed to be the female personality* introduced in the next episode. Update: While the post was originally signed by Bailey, host Dave Bouressa says that he is actually the one who wrote it. This is particularly odd since the post is written from, presumably, Bailey’s perspective and refers to Dave in third person. Update 3/13 10:31: Bouressa has admitted to writing as Bailey. More details at the bottom of the post.

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*Three days later it’s still not clear if Bailey was supposed to be a third host, a host of another show on the network, or just a semi-regular contributor.

This is when the wheels fall off the wagon and the whole structure bursts into flame. The reaction through Twitter is swift and fierce. Earning particular ire in the post are the remarks about the “Tumblr attitude*” displayed by those criticizing the change to the ForceCast. Worse, it states that the previous hosts were at odds with the new show runners at least in part because they shared similar sentiments. This causes some who are following along to wonder if the creative differences between the old staff and the new show-runners were more related to diversity-based philosophy rather than a regular posting schedule. Instantly this also calls into question how sincere the new show-runners are about diversity and representation on their show.

*At this point I have to editorialize a bit and explain what exactly the author of the post meant by “Tumblr attitude.” Among many circles, Tumblr is regarded as a haven for so-called Social Justice advocates, or more derisively, Social Justice Warriors. I’ll leave it to you to take that information and draw conclusions as you see fit.

Fallout happens almost immediately. Chris McGuffin, contributor to the ForceCast’s social media and PR presence, posts in the Facebook page himself. The now deleted post (and page entirely) pleads for patience and states that he personally would not have worded the previous Facebook post in such a vitriolic manner. At 10:55AM Eastern, McGuffin tweets that he has resigned from the ForceCast.

Chris Resign

The anger and dismay continues until the bombshell hits.

Dustin Roberts- content manager for TheForce.net, ForceCast.net, and Rebelscum.com- announces that the ForceCast would be ending for good after just one episode under the new format and hosts. One of the oldest podcasts in Star Wars and genre fandom would cease production in abrupt, tragic fashion.

What went unnoticed by most, though, was a statement from Kyle Winner a minute earlier, in which he seems to lay the blame for the ForceCast’s demise at the feet of what he deems are Social Justice Warriors.

sjw

Post Mortem

This is where I try to figure out where things went wrong, so to be absolutely clear what follows are my thoughts. Everything that has preceded this point is a recap of what was said by critics and ForceCast staff. Everything from this point on is me trying to piece it all together.

It’s quite difficult to parse exactly what happened over the last few weeks, and especially what happened in the last 36 hours. The speed at which the ForceCast went from rebooted to shuttered is almost unfathomable. This was a show that had weathered controversy in the past and had always been resilient enough to bounce back, learn some lessons, and move forward.

Where things seemed to go wrong this time was how the new show runners and hosts reacted to what should have been expected pushback to change. Where they could have chosen to say they were aware of the concerns and were working on it, or even ignore it all together, the new staff decided to lash out against critics. Perhaps the finishing blow, however, was the decision to lash out against the former hosts in an identical manner. This was a faux pas that seemed to stun a number of listeners. The angry, vitriol filled Facebook post was the event horizon that sent the ForceCast at lightspeed towards its demise.

There’s no way to look at this unraveling as being anything short of tragic. The ForceCast had made huge strides in recent years to diversify not only its on-air talent, but the subjects and fans it reached out to. Perhaps the silver lining is the regression in diversity elicited such a strong response from fans. That kind of representation downgrade didn’t sit well with a number of listeners, and they made their voices heard.

Unfortunately, there’s no getting around how avoidable all of this was. Kyle Winner is 19, and as shown the last 36 hours just was not ready to become the showrunner for a fandom touchpoint of such scale and importance as the ForceCast. Dustin Roberts and TFN put Winner in a position to fail, but he himself is not blameless.

Winner’s first mistake was not retaining the previous hosts and allowing them to continue on the ForceCast. His second mistake was ignoring the diversity concerns when he committed to completely rebooting the show without representation similar to what had already been on the ForceCast. While Erik Blythe leaving was abrupt, Winner had to be aware that wholesale changes regardless of diversity concerns were going to elicit a strong response.

Neither Winner nor his staff were prepared for the criticism that should have been expected. What is clear now is how grossly unprepared all of them were to deal with an audience as diverse and broad as the ForceCast’s. The Facebook post is proof of that and then some. Instead of damage control or simply ignoring the criticism, Winner and his staff proceeded in the worst way imaginable by posting an incredibly tone-deaf screed that was dismissive and outright hostile to both listener concerns and the previous hosts’ contributions.  

With even a fraction more thought and care, the ForceCast could still be around. Instead of that thought and care, Roberts allowed someone as unprepared and divisive as Winner to assume control. As a result, Winner and his staff quickly alienated a sizable number of listeners and turned the ForceCast into a toxic asset for TFN after only a few weeks and one episode.

Now one of the oldest fandom touchpoints is gone, and it all could have been avoided.

***

Update, 3/13 at 10:31 PM: As mentioned in the update above, the Facebook post was not written by Bailey, the upcoming female addition to the new ForceCast, but Dave Bouressa writing as Bailey.

bailey

20 thoughts on “The Last Days of The ForceCast

  1. Hey Brian, great article.

    I loved the Forcecast through all of iterations, and was really shocked with how things quickly went downhill this month

    Erik Blythe recorded a really great show on his Random Chatter network lastnight which cleared up a few things. You should all listen to it if you're interested in what happened to this great show.

    On the first new show of the Forcecast, Kyle and David said that there would be a new female host joining them from next week, who is a friend of David's called Bailey. So the two white guy show was just a one off. But Bailey wrote the Facebook rant, not Kyle. Kyle's actions were rash and rushed by not smoothly transitioning to a new format with new hosts, but it seems that it was Bailey who put the final nail in the coffin.

    I think the Force.nets owners were perhaps right to pull the plug on it. And I hope all the previous hosts find great ways to carry on with their amazing content.

    The lesson here is just to be amazing. Don't make a song and dance about saying what you want to be, but just be it.

    And the key to being a great Star Wars podcaster first and foremost should be an untempered love of Star Wars. If your first and foremost reason to podcast is because you love the sound of your own voice and you want to do things your way or the highway, that's never going to last.

    • Yeah, I think ultimately what did Winner and his staff in boils down to having very poor message management and sincerity. Even with the addition of a female voice (the sincerity of this addition can definitely be called into question, but that's another subject), at this point the staff (And this goes beyond Bailey's Facebook rant and into Winner's personal conduct on his own channels) had used enough language to indicate that they weren't all that sincere about diversity. The Star Wars fandom has gotten pretty good at sniffing that sort of thing out.

      Ultimately as the show runner and essentially network head honcho, the buck stops with Kyle Winner. He's responsible for the messaging and tone for the whole organization. Likewise, if something like that happened here on this network (it won't just a hypothetical), it's my responsibility to own it, clean up, hold myself and my staff accountable, apologize, and enact changes.

        • Not that I'm aware of, no. I'm taking it all at face value here but the whole thing was definitely odd.

          • They said on the show Bailey was a good friend of Dave Bouressa's. But it's unclear if she was going to be a host on the FC or RRT. There's a Bailey on Dave's Twitter following list, no idea if this is her or not, but whatever the case, you're right, the buck stops with the director.

            I don't think Erik's recording from lastnight is up yet, but keep an eye out for it, it was interesting.

            Do you the TFN will ever launch a replacement show?

            • That I really can't say. I don't have any insight into what TFN wants to do moving forward, so it wouldn't surprise me if they started a new show or just walked away from it all. Thankfully the landscape has changed dramatically in the last ten years where there's now a show for everyone. We've got our own shows which I'm pretty proud of. Bryan's got Full of Sith which is another excellent show. If they decide not to do anything else, the good news is that the fandom isn't lacking for podcasts these days.

              • As of right now, TFN has no plans to launch any new shows. Jedi Journals (Jay Shepard and Chris Wyman) will continue. I'm unsure about IndyCast (Ed Dolista), but I believe that will continue too. Otherwise, there won't be any podcasts associated with TFN, ForceCast, or Rebelscum for the indefinite future.

                Of course, that could all change someday.

                • Like a bad penny, The IndyCast will still be here and back with a new show on April 4th looking at all things Indiana Jones. Hope everything works out for all involved.

  2. Pingback: TheForce.Net shuts down the ForceCast podcast | Club Jade

  3. Brian, thanks for logging all of this here. With the deletion of the Facebook post and how quickly things scroll off of Twitter, this helps people fill in the blanks of the past few days.

    Brian Young, I'm confident that Bailey is not Kyle in disguise. Kyle was actually offline most of the day yesterday while all this was happening.

    As Bobby said, I did a live stream last night in which I "spilled the beans" on everything going on in the background (well, mostly everything) over the last couple of years, including the events of the past week. Took questions from the chat room too.

    If you want to hear it, I posted it to the RandomChatter podcast feed, and it's up on our website. If anyone has any questions for me, I'd be happy to answer them publicly or privately. Hit me up through the website or through Twitter.

  4. Brian, the idea that Dave Bouressa wrote the post doesn't quite add up. It definitely /reads/ like it's written by someone who is not Dave, evidenced by:
    "Kyle and Dave fully acknowledge that they are not the most knowledgable when it comes to the EU, or various topics, so we are bringing in fellow hosts who are, such as myself..." and "Kyle and Dave have podcasted for many years, as well myself as an upcoming host, and we have our type of audience..."

    Soooo... either the mysterious Bailey wrote the post, or Dave made a post /as/ Bailey, signed Bailey, referring to himself in third person to... give himself greater credibility to speak on diversity issues by claiming to be a woman? Something doesn't add up there.

    • Yeah, a lot of this doesn't quite add up, but I've made an addition to the post noting the inconsistency there. Because Saf and Megan are both here on our network, I don't want to dig too deeply and supply motivation or theories out of respect to their time with the ForceCast. You are correct to point out that it's incongruous for Bouressa to say that he wrote the article when it appears to be written from someone else's POV. That's on me for not noticing it immediately and making a note in the post, so thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  5. Having a ghostwritten reply by a man pretending to be a woman, in order to present the appearance of preserving diverse voices at The ForceCast, is the pinnacle of tokenism. That he cannot see how that was both dishonest and illustrative of sexism is telling. "Not Your Shield" forsooth!

    • The issue isn't so much the fact that someone wrote a ghostwritten reply, but that there's enough people out there who feel the need to scream sexism at a Star Wars podcast - in the most vicious fashion, too, and on top feel that's reasonable conduct.
      That addressing people in a down-to-earth fashion was no option becomes clear when one looks at the response to the Facebook post. So, with all the stuff being put in peoples' shoes (which stand in hardly a healthy relation to the thing we're actually dealing with here) it's no wonder the person in charge ends up feeling forced to pander to that audience and write a ghostwritten piece in the first place. It's the circumstances leading up to this and the toxic environment it all went down in that's the problem here.

      • Bouressa and Winner's responses to criticism were entirely out of proportion and wildly inappropriate. In less than 24 hours, both of them completely validated the suspicion that the new ForceCast was completely and utterly insincere about diversity.

        Under no circumstances can ghostwriting as a woman in this context (or really most if not all contexts) be perceived as an appropriate action. The critics are not the ones who used a woman as a shield from criticism.

        This development is, frankly, the most damning thing they have admitted to and proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that they were not remotely qualified to be stewards of the ForceCast.

        • I just don't see how to be honest. I haven't listened to the actual podcast in question (I haven't listened to ForceCast for years now), so this article is pretty much all I'm going on. It really doesn't become clear where this perceived complete and utter insincerity about diversity is coming from. I do get the impression that a whole bunch of people decided that someone or something was sexist or similar and that they weren't gonna budge from that, no matter what the person in charge was gonna want to say in defense. Deny it? Insincerity. Two guys doing a podcast? Diversity issues. Say there's a girl member coming next show? Tokenism.
          Apart from giving people exactly what they want to hear and (falsely) admit that yes, we're deeply sorry for being sexist bigots, there's really no way of doing it right, is there?

          I'm not saying ghostwriting was appropriate, but it was one option to deal with those complaining after the more appropriate one had failed. I honestly fail to see how the Facebook post is "angry" or "vitriolic". Apart from the initial "We're pissed", that is - which isn't exactly something that can't be understood. If I was called racist for not having a black person in my novel and people started hopping on that wagon to bully me into writing a largely unnecessary apology and possibly stop doing my job altogether, I'd be pissed too. I read the Facebook post two times and all I see is them trying to level with their audience in an entirely no-bullshit fashion. Seeing it be described as vitriolic I was expecting them to insult their audience or something along those lines.

          I'm just kind of floored as to what people were expecting and why the podcast not being hosted by a girl for once was seen as an issue. When people complain about sexism in your podcast after one episode, you just indulge them. You do another one, maybe another, and people will see that girls are just a part of the show as whoever (possibly). The issue goes away as fast as it appeared.

          What I don't understand then is this insistence. You write that "some of that critique may be construed as mean spirited, but much of it had a point: consciously dialing back the diversity on an established show is a sketchy thing to do". Consciously? Why consciously? How do we know that? Consciously would mean that they actually had a conversation about it and decided to "let's have less girls on the show". How did we get from "Now that the two girls who were on the show are gone, is it gonna be a pure sausage fest?" to "They don't have a girl on their first show and that must be intentional"? That's jumping to conclusions. In big leaps.

          Again... they should not have indulged people and gone on doing their show for a bit more, convincing the audience through their actions. Question is did the audience let them or were conclusions already foregone at that point? Oh, well... I guess I might not be aware of the more intricate details. Do I have to? In the end it's people enjoying their hobby having to fight off allegations of sexism and whatnot. It's ugly.

          • First off, it appears that you are GREATLY overstating the degree of criticism that occurred. Listeners are entitled to their opinions, and listeners don't actually control what happens. Winner could have easily ignored the criticism if he didn't care. I get all sorts of negative feedback for the shows we run on this network, some of which are the most vile messages you will ever read. At no point has that compelled me or even given me justification for behaving in the manner Bouressa and Winner did.

            Second, no, full stop. It's NOT okay to ghostwrite as a woman as a means of deflecting further criticism. That is a total non-starter. This was not the only option at their disposal. It's not at all a defensible option, regardless of perceived level of criticism. There is no level of criticism that can possibly justify what Bouressa did.

  6. I'm a white male who was thinking of eventually starting a podcast but I'm assuming i'll just be protested off the air. I seriously cannot go ANYWHERE or do ANYTHING these days without being ridiculed for happening to be born white and male. Have you morons ever read about propaganda and divide/conquer? You should because you oh-so "cultured" idiots are completely misled. BUT HEY I ALREADY SAID I WAS A WHITE MALE......so... I'm evil inherent. Disregard what I say and be sure to protest me getting a job. Seriously. You have NO idea what kind of bullshit agenda you're furthering. Society is divided by POVERTY LINES. If you're rich and a female or rich and black you'll be just fine. but now if you happen to come from a poor background and are white and male you pretty much are the scum of the earth. It's DISGUSTING. Seriously. Find something else to promote. You look so incredibly ignorant promoting this coerced, completely made up "boohoo girls are oppressed" agenda. This is the 21st century. WAKE UP! But hey thanks for destroying a podcast because two white men were hosting it. That's no racism or sexism... DOUBLE STANDARDS...... I mean holy damn these two guys step up to help keep a show running and you airheads protest them off the air. Seriously...get lost. You're so incredibly coerced, brainwashed, and downright ignorant I mean you must believe anything you hear from the media/talking heads you worship. I hope you got that warm little fuzzy feeling inside. And seriously...just because johnny emo wouldn't date you in high school doesn't mean you have to go on some pitchfork-carrying crusade to exterminate all white men. Get the hell over it. Waaaah waaaah we're oppressed so lets oppress in turn. I mean how ignorant can you be...

  7. Actually it's funny, Evilwhiteman. I started writing this post about eight hours AFTER the ForceCast was cancelled. Good effort on the cause and effect, though.

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