When the news broke that 24 year old YouTuber Austin Jones had been arrested on two counts of making child pornography, the most common response we saw from our audience was not shock or surprise, but simply “finally”. Yes, to outsiders the revelation that this Bieber-haired singer could be capable of heinous crimes came as a shock – but those who knew about Austin in the YouTube community had seen it coming from a million miles away.
Austin Nearly Got Caught In 2015
In 2015, there was uproar when it emerged that Austin had asked fans, some of them underage, to send him videos of themselves ‘twerking’. Austin scraped through this debacle by the skin of his teeth. He posted a nearly seventeen minute long video in which he apologised for asking fans to send the videos and stated that, “nothing ever went further than twerking videos. There were never any nudes, never any physical contact, it never happened.”‘. He also went into detail about personal and family problems he has had, which he blamed for his behaviour. We have chosen not to share the video, in order not to net him ad revenue.
So why did he not get in trouble?
Austin avoided legal trouble in 2015 for two simple reasons. The first was the grey nature of what he had done; although twerking is a quite sexualised dance, it is not a sex act and is difficult to define in terms of a sex crime. It is likely that the police, if they even looked into it at all, may have decided that the underage girls twerking, although not okay, was not clear enough evidence of genuine pedophile intent. The second reason is even more important – Austin didn’t get in trouble because he doesn’t fit the narrative of a pedophile.
Austin was young and (seemingly) clean cut. He couldn’t possibly be a pedophile, people thought – pedophiles are old creepy losers and Austin is young and fresh-faced and talented. There was an idea that youth and sheen meant that he was incapable of acting maliciously. His small amount of fame also likely influenced things. Yes, it was unusual for underage girls to send you twerking videos, but people with fans have unusual lives, where unusual things happen to them and where fans can be intense. To be clear – this isn’t an assertion that these am not saying these arguments are valid, merely an attempt to understand the thinking behind the total inaction. We have to ask ourselves – if a 40 year old man had been caught asking underage girls for twerking videos, would be he let off with no punishment? Seems unlikely. But cool, baby-faced Austin got a free pass.
And then there’s fandom
Let’s be clear: We can’t place blame on Austin’s fans for not wanting to accept the truth. When someone you admire is the centre of the kind of controversy that has ultimately brought Jones down, you look for anything you can find to try and prove it’s not true. But at the same time, as hard as it can be – fans need to recognise when it’s time to jump ship. Go back to any article about the 2015 twerking article and you will find fans voraciously defending Austin for doing something that, by his own admission, was creepy and wrong.
These comments do not look good in light of recent developments. Of course, there is more information now and I am in no way saying that those fans lied or knowingly defended a pedophile. What I’m saying is that dealing with the fact your fave is now problematic can be very difficult, but it is something the community needs to get better at dealing with – because when we get it wrong, bad people walk free, and more people get hurt.
Not that people didn’t try to expose him
To be clear: In 2015, there were many people who attempted to call Austin out – it was the powers that be that decided that the story needed to be suppressed and quashed. One of the most vindicated figures was Deefizzy, who had been outspoken in calling Austin out for his 2015 behaviour – and who received relentless backlash for it. His recent tweets on the subject are definitely worth reading:
Youth Does Not Equal Innocence
While it must be very much emphasised that young age can be a huge mitigating factor in a lot of bad actions, we cannot get away from the fact that there is no set template for a monster – anyone could be a monster, no matter how well they sing indie songs. In an industry and community where fans are often very young, we need to be even more wary and even less keen to overlook misdeeds. And if you are underage, please be extremely wary of anyone older who appears to be taking advantage of you, especially if they are in a position of influence or power. For more information on the laws around sexting and related issues, please go to this website. Stay safe out there, friends.