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James Somerton (also known as James of Telos), is a Canadian former YouTuber known for commentary videos on films, books, and comics, especially regarding queer history and characters. In December 2023, two prolific YouTubers Harry Brewis (Hbomberguy) and Todd Nathanson (Todd in the Shadows) released back-to-back video essays with evidence that a substantial portion of James's work was either the result of plagiarism, or complete historical fabrication.[2][3] On December 8, 2023, James privated all content on his YouTube channel, then unprivated most of his content on February 26, 2024, alongside a video acknowledging the controversy. On May 8, following the reveal that he had faked his death, Somerton shut down his YouTube account indefinitely.

Content[]

James made videos about LGBT-related media and content, as well as LGBT characters in popular media such as Marvel. His first videos criticized the way Marvel treated marginalized characters. He also posted superhero movie reviews.

James pivoted to queer-centric video essays in 2017, and he achieved his first viral hit with 2018's Monsters in the Closet - A History of LGBT Representation in Horror Cinema, a feature-length video essay examining the portrayal of LGBT characters in cinematic horror history. The video was widely praised and effectively launched his YouTube career, with his work being compared to that of Lindsay Ellis.

Monsters in the Closet was followed up by a three-part video series on queerbaiting. He began making documentaries on gay lifestyle and culture in Hollywood, such as adult films and Disney villains. He became known for in-depth discussions of society's perception of LGBT people, and how it affects the queer population. After the release of WandaVision, he went back to his superhero comic roots and made a video about the gay power couple of Marvel.

He also dipped his toes in non-American comics, such as the extremely controversial Korean comic Killing Stalking. While he discussed the series' chronicling of abusive relationships, he controversially argued that any fault for "romanticizing" said abuse sat with the series' fans, rather than its author. He made similar statements about the true crime fandom, arguing that "mostly teenage girls" were "swooning" over serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer because he only killed gay men.[2]

He is also the host of the podcast A Thousand Tiny Tantrums.[4]

Controversies[]

Somerton's downfall in December 2023 can largely be traced to an incident that occurred on Twitter nearly exactly a year prior. Somerton sub-tweeted Nebula—a streaming service that plays host to several popular video essayists such as Lindsay Ellis—for ignoring his emails, accusing them of having an absence of "exclusively queer content." This earned the ire of creators Jessie Gender and Maggie Mae Fish, who came into direct conflict with Somerton and his fans due to pointing out the false nature of his claims. The argument drew the attention of two YouTubers: Harry Brewis (Hbomberguy) and Todd Nathanson (Todd in the Shadows), who independently decided to look into accusations that had followed Somerton over the years.[5]

Plagiarism[]

Accusations of plagiarism, as well as outright proven instances, dogged Somerton for years. Somerton and his co-writer dismissed these as either "mistaken plagiarism", a misunderstanding, or homophobic harassment campaigns against him.[6] Hbomberguy's producer Kat Lo noticed the accusations of plagiarism that were tossed in Somerton's argument with Jessie Gender and put out a tweet asking if this was a topic worth investigating. Her tweet drew little attention at the time beyond some of Somerton's most fervent followers, who rebuked her.[7]

On December 2, 2023, Hbomberguy released a video on the topic of plagiarism on YouTube, titled "Plagiarism and You(Tube)". While the first half of the video presented itself as a summary of plagiarism cases from creators such as Iilluminaughtii and Internet Historian, the latter half shifted to focus almost entirely on James Somerton.[3] Hbomberguy investigated the prior claims of plagiarism and not only found they were all credible, but there were also a number of undiscovered cases. In fact, the results of his investigation provided evidence that a majority of Somerton's videos contained content plagiarized from other sources, including passages lifted wholesale from other, smaller queer writers, including two gay men who died in the AIDS pandemic. Hbomberguy argued that this was because Somerton fundamentally did not respect the work of these other writers, as he had given credit to more visible queer celebrities in the past. The video showed that not only had Somerton stolen the words of other queer authors, but he had also used clips taken directly from two smaller creators' channels without credit, edited to make them seem as though they were his own work.

Somerton responded to the video with an initial Patreon post, erroneously claiming that Hbomberguy's video only addressed one "disproven" case and had brought up "nothing new". Shortly afterward, Somerton deleted nearly his entire social media presence, including his Patreon and Discord server, and disabled comments on his YouTube videos and community posts. He made one last post on his Patreon claiming he would provide a further statement, which received negative comments before the entire account was removed.

In response to Hbomberguy's video, Somerton's co-writer Nick Herrgott released a statement on his website in which he condemned Somerton's actions. He claimed he was unaware of Somerton's plagiarism, and announced that he had ended their long-term association.[8] In his video "I Fact-Checked The Worst Video Essayist On YouTube", Todd Nathanson cast doubt on Herrgott's lack of involvement, following statements in Hbomberguy's video that were intended to possibly exonerate Herrgott.[2]

Pseudohistory[]

Todd Nathanson (Todd in the Shadows) knew of Somerton as "the plagiarism guy" for some time before he decided to watch one of his videos in January 2023, prompted by friends Maggie Mae Fish and Princess Weekes venting to him about the incident that occurred the prior December. Todd watched Somerton's video "Why Bad Gays Are Good". Though generally appalled with Somerton's writing, he was particularly offended by Somerton's claim that "all the cool gays had died during the AIDS crisis" and those that remained were assimilationist sellouts. Todd sub-tweeted about the video but was surprised at the pushback from Somerton's fans, which prompted him to hate-watch Somerton's videos to try to understand what brought them to such a fervent following. What he found on this watch prompted him to begin work on a video designed to fact-check Somerton. At some point during this, he and Hbomberguy learned of each other's videos and agreed to continue them on their own on the condition Harry be allowed to release his first since he had begun the investigation before.[5]

On December 3, 2023, the day after Harry's video went out, Todd released his two-hour video titled "I Fact-Checked The Worst Video Essayist On YouTube". The video focused on numerous instances of pseudohistory passed off as factual representations of historical events, including erroneous or even outright false claims about both world history and media history, which had been spread as fact by his audience.[2]

These included claims such as:

  • Lesbians were less affected by cultural homophobia than gay men and even benefited from it in places.[9]
  • The Nazi Party and Hitler Youth were full of homosexuals.[10]
  • 90s and 2000s queer activists only cared about marriage equality because they were conservative.[11]
  • Modern companies spend most of their budget buying and burying new technologies.[12]
  • China is a major negative influence on the global film industry.[13]
  • Straight women had complained and even harassed him about gay romance/sex scenes in Yuri on Ice and Red, White and Royal Blue.[14]

Todd noted that Harry went out of his way in his respective video to be kind to Nick Herrgott, as he found signs that Somerton may have planned to use Herrgott as a scapegoat for any plagiarism claims. However, Todd found several messages Herrgott posted in Somerton's now-deleted Discord, showing Herrgott displaying a blasé attitude to the idea of fact-checking and basic research during the video writing process. This included Herrgott making the pseudohistorical "observational claim" that modern fitness culture originated with homosexual Nazis, which he acknowledged making no effort to verify. Todd questioned whether Herrgott was truly unaware of the plagiarism, though he ultimately concluded Herrgott was at least guilty of being extremely irresponsible in his work with Somerton.

Possible Patreon scam[]

On December 4, 2023, Dan Olson (Folding Ideas) released an extended thread on X (formerly Twitter) elaborating on a prior tiff he had gotten into with Somerton. On March 29, Somerton posted an infamous tweet claiming that sex workers counted as a mental health service, which briefly made him a Twitter main character for several days. Two days later, Somerton made a now-unlisted video claiming he had suffered a 50% drop in Patreon earnings and pleading with viewers to subscribe to his Patreon lest he be unable to continue creating videos. This led to a sudden rise in Somerton's Patreon subscribers, gaining 1200 new patrons in a single day.

Olson, who had noticed the presence of expensive equipment in Somerton's videos with little demonstrated understanding from Somerton of how to even use camera equipment, found these claims suspicious. He noticed that Somerton's explanations were unspecific about why he had suffered a drop or even how much he had suffered: though Somerton shared no data about his Patreon subscriber count, he experienced no comparable drop in YouTube subscribers, thus making it unlikely he suffered the same drop in Patreon subscribers, and even more unlikely his existing Patreon base changed their subscription tiers. Olson also noted that shortly after having a sudden increase in Patreon money, Somerton bought an $8000 camera, which Olson noted was a bizarre purchase to make for someone who supposedly had just come out of a precarious money position. Olson openly voiced his doubts on Twitter at the time but was rebuked by Somerton, only for the thread to emerge in the aftermath of Harry and Todd's videos, with Olson offering an explanation when asked. Though he conceded Somerton may have simply seen a glitch on Patreon's end and panicked, Olson found that Somerton's history of fabrication to suit his position made it more likely he was outright lying.[15][16]

Transphobia and acephobia[]

On December 4, 2023, Jessie Gender posted a video on her "Jessie Gender After Dark" channel discussing how Somerton weaponized queer community solidarity to stave off criticism. During the video, she commented on the previous controversy with Nebula: Jessie had objected to Somerton's claim that Nebula did not have content by queer creators, noting at the time it erased the existence of queer creators who were not cisgender gay men, of which Nebula did in fact have several (including Jessie herself). This led to Somerton and his fans attacking Jessie, including allegedly calling the cops on her.[17]

In hindsight, the incident spoke to broader instances of transphobia that appeared in Somerton's videos. As noted by Hbomberguy in his video, Somerton's plagiarized passages often removed specific references to the trans experience and replaced them with terms such as "queer" or "gay"; one video referred to the LGBT movement as the "LGB Movement", a transphobic dog whistle; and misgendered transgender and non-binary creators such as Rebecca Sugar, creator of Steven Universe, and ND Stevenson, the creator of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power to argue that gay men were unable to make media that represented them.[3]

James has also been accused by The Ace Couple for acephobia with his erasure of asexual and aromantic people within the LGBTQ+ community, denial of conversion therapy towards ace people, refusing to take in ace-related sources, and his personal attacks and vague tweets about the two.[18]

Misogyny[]

Hbomberguy and Todd Nathanson accused Somerton of misogyny masked by the careful use of the terms 'straight white women' and 'teenage girls'. These allegations centered on his allegations that straight women had engaged in widespread harassment and abuse campaigns over gay romance and sex scenes in Yuri on Ice and Red, White, and Royal Blue, and his claim that "teenage girls" fangirled Jeffrey Dahmer and other serial killers because Dahmer only killed gay men, and therefore it "wasn't personal" for them.

Somerton also argued that a majority of straight women see gay men as nothing more than a "handbag", and even used another gay man's piece about working through his discomfort with his sexuality by watching Red, White and Royal Blue to back up his claim that these straight women were appalled by gay men having sex. Finally, he falsely claimed that lesbians benefited from a societal discomfort around the idea of female homosexuality, even going so far as to say that the court case against Radclyffe Hall's 1928 book Well of Loneliness was thrown out because the court did not wish to discuss lesbianism (Hall, in fact, lost her case and the judge ordered that all British copies of the book should be destroyed).

The fact that provably false comments such as these appeared to be some of the only original content in the videos they appeared in, Nathanson argued, suggests that they were things Somerton felt particularly strongly about.

Lies on education history[]

James would describe himself as a "marketing expert" and claimed on his LinkedIn that he graduated from Mount Saint Vincent University with an associate's degree and Carleton University with a master's degree in business. However, it was later determined that he never graduated from Mount Saint Vincent University since he was never seen or mentioned in its graduation ceremonies, and it is unknown if he actually attended the institution or attained a graduate/postgraduate qualification of any kind.[19]

Catfishing allegations[]

On Hbomberguy's subreddit, a few Reddit users came out with their personal experiences with James. One of them stated that they met on Grindr, with James highlighting his fraudulent nature and alleging that he catfished them on Grindr. The other Reddit user claimed that James messaged them on an old chat messaging website around 2005-2006. The user alleges more about James' catfishing and convinced them to do things on camera while posing as the user's "hot best friend".[20]

Apologies[]

Initial apology[]

On December 20, 2023, James uploaded an apology video covering the plagiarism and misinformation scandal, accusations of setting up Nick as his fall guy in the event he was caught, scam accusations regarding Telos Pictures, as well as the allegations of discriminatory and bigoted beliefs against other queer groups and women.[21] This response video was heavily criticized in the comments sections due to Somerton not ever mentioning that he plagiarized, throwing Nick under the bus, failing to properly address any of the controversies in a substantial manner, reopening his Patreon to allegedly let people cancel their pledges if they wish, and many accused him of using his mental health issues and suicidal thoughts to emotionally manipulate his audience into taking his side and accepting his apology.

He later deleted the apology video and deactivated his Patreon again after briefly bringing it back online. James uploaded a community tab post shortly after deleting his apology, in which he claimed that the removal of the apology video was done in response to many commenters saying he should have waited to write an apology and upload content to the internet until he was in a more stable state of mind, with James having only just having been released from the hospital the day prior to uploading his original response. James stated that he would write a better thought out and more detailed response at a later date when his mental health improves.[22]

Updated apology[]

On February 26, 2024, James uploaded a second apology video. As James stated with his last response, this response was far more composed. The video itself notably takes its title from Hbomberguy's titling format, has public likes disabled, and has "newest first" comment views set by default.

Alongside the apology, he made 16 of his older videos publicly viewable with all ad revenue going towards Hbomberguy's team in order to allegedly repay the parties who were the victims of James' plagiarism. The new response was heavily criticized due to James continuing to deflect the blame and to make himself look better. Commenters took issue with James claiming he wanted to be a "voice for the queer community" while stealing from other queer writers without credit, blaming his plagiaristic tendencies on memory issues from a brain injury, and for trying to rewrite the narrative of prior events such as claiming he got permission for his "Evil Queens and Tinker Bells" video before publication when the email giving him permission was received long after publication.[23]

Reactions from involved parties were very negative. Hbomberguy confirmed on X that James had not informed him about the funds[24] while Alexander Avila, one of the people Somerton plagiarised extensively from, confirmed that James never contacted him or even unblocked him.[25] In March of 2024, at around the same time as his channel rebranding, James deleted the video.

Rebranding and faking death[]

On March 5, 2024, following near-universal criticism of his return, James rebranded his YouTube account to "James of Telos", which users interpreted as referring to his prior Telos film company. Telos (τέλος) is Greek for "end/finish". At around the same time, James privated his account on X before posting what seemed to be a suicide note, mentioning how he was scheduling uploads so that Nick's portfolio would stay up, also claiming that there's "no life for [him] any more."

Moderators of the r/hbomberguy subreddit made multiple statements, stating they were looking for more information, eventually closing off requests for info after they "got in touch with somebody" and "done all [they] can."[26][27] Later, on March 6, when prompted about the situation, Nick gave a reassurance that "right now and to [his] knowledge, there's nothing to worry about."[28] On March 10, hbomberguy's producer and subreddit moderator Kat Lo elaborated that she had received word that Somerton is "alive and physically safe": she declined to provide any further information she had, out of respect for his privacy.[29]

On May 8, 2024, Lady Emily reported on X that Somerton had, in fact, continued to post regularly since his failed rebrand: Somerton had set up an alternate account called "The Gay Raconteur" on X as part of an overall attempt at a rebrand. On the same day Somerton posted the claimed suicide note on his original account, he rebranded the alt account as "Will" or "thatgayyouknow", and later "TheAchilleanBoy". Emily found that Somerton had been posting defenses of himself on said account in between the two apology videos, and later posted as The Achillean Boy on TikTok: originally he used AI voices and emoji avatars to hide his identity before eventually using his real face and voice. Lady Emily highlighted the egregious nature of Somerton's actions, noting Somerton had allowed people to both mourn his death and use it to attack those who criticized him, utilizing the same manipulation tactics as before to elicit sympathy so he could go back to the same actions for which he had originally been criticized.[30] Shortly after this, Somerton shut down the "James of Telos" YouTube account. Since then, Somerton has reportedly continued to post defenses of himself through further alternate accounts.[31]

Political views[]

James describes himself as a "proto-socialist" and supports the Black Lives Matter movement.[citation needed] It has been argued that he holds a variety of bigoted views about women and trans people.[32]

Quotes[]

  • "If I had been plagiarizing videos, I wouldn't have a channel."[33]

Trivia[]

Gallery[]

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 James of Telos's YouTube Stats. Social Blade.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 I Fact-Checked The Worst Video Essayist On YouTube by Todd in the Shadows. YouTube. December 3, 2023.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Plagiarism and You(Tube) by hbomberguy (6599s mark). YouTube. December 2, 2023.
  4. thousandtinytantrums. The Nick and James Podcast. Apple Podcasts. Retrieved on December 4, 2023.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "It's like Breaking Bad, but worse: a brief history of how Somerton successfully screwed himself". Reddit. December 10, 2023.
  6. https://i.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/newsfeed/002/712/860/cbe.png James Somerton's original response to Hbomberguy's plagiarism video.
  7. Kat Lo tweets on December 12, 2022, asking about the plagiarism claims.
  8. Nick Herrgott. plagiarism: my response. Retrieved on December 7, 2023.
  9. Geek Theory - Episode #1 "The Marvel Issue" by James Somerton. YouTube. November 20, 2013.
  10. Geek Movie Review! Captain America: The Winter Solider by James Somerton. YouTube. April 3, 2014.
  11. Geek Review: X-Men "Days of Future Past" by James Somerton. YouTube. May 22, 2014.
  12. Harry Potter and The Closet Under The Stairs - Queer themes in Harry Potter (Video essay) by James Somerton. YouTube. June 30, 2018.
  13. Unrequited: The History of Queer Baiting (Part 2... Stage and Small Screen) by James Somerton. YouTube. August 12, 2020. (archive)
  14. Unrequited: The History of Queer Baiting (Part 1... The First 100 Years) by James Somerton. YouTube. August 12, 2020. (archive)
  15. Post on Twitter by @FoldableHuman, accessed on December 25, 2023.
  16. Dan Olson (@FoldableHuman). Nitter (December 4, 2023). Retrieved on December 25, 2023.
  17. Post on Twitter by @jessiegender, accessed on December 25, 2023.
  18. We were personally victimized by James Somerton by The Ace Couple. YouTube. December 12, 2023.
  19. Post on Twitter by @TheBase16, accessed on December 25, 2023.
  20. Post on Twitter by @NebsGoodTakes, accessed on December 25, 2023.
  21. I'm sorry by James Somerton. YouTube. December 21, 2023.
  22. Post by James Somerton. YouTube (December 21, 2023). Retrieved on December 25, 2023.
  23. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCNByQ6WopM
  24. HBomberguy on X (February 28, 2024). Retrieved on February 28, 2024.
  25. Alexander Avila on X (February 28, 2024). Retrieved on February 28, 2024.
  26. Official moderator statement to r/hbomberguy (March 5, 2024). Retrieved on March 5, 2024.
  27. Moderator comment on r/hbomberguy (March 5, 2024). Retrieved on March 5, 2024.
  28. Post by Nick Herrgott (March 6, 2024). Retrieved on March 8, 2024.
  29. Kat Lo confirms Somerton is alive.
  30. Lady Emily documents Somerton's continued activity
  31. A follow-up post by Lady Emily
  32. See above sections on transphobia and misogyny.
  33. A clip from hbomberguy's "Plagiarism and You(Tube)", using a clip from James Somerton's now deleted livestream
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