Screenshot: The Game Awards / Kotaku
Academy Award winner Al Pacino may have opened the 2022 Game Awards, a night of industry recognition and expensive marketing for the biggest games around, but it was a new type of internet celebrity who closed it out. “I want to nominate this award to my reformed Orthodox Rabbi Bill Clinton,” said a young kid with long hair who appeared onstage suddenly after Elden Ring was crowned Game of the Year. He was wearing an ill-fitting coat, sneaking up on stage behind the the Elden Ring development team.
Security followed, and chaos ensued online as everyone tried to figure out what the hell had just happened during host Geoff Keighley’s otherwise heavily orchestrated three-hour event. But this was far from the first time the young man, whose name Kotaku believes to be Matan Even, had sprung to brief internet fame through internet-pilled trolling, even if it might have been his weirdest.
After the ceremony finished, Keighley tweeted that the “individual who interrupted” the event had been arrested. Five hours later, however, Even was already tweeting. “Today there is a lot of talk, and speculation,” he wrote. “More information will be released on all fronts sooner than later.”
When asked about what transpired after the incident, the LAPD media relations office contradicted Keighley’s account, saying a report had been taken but no arrest was made. When asked to square that, a spokesperson for The Game Awards provided a more detailed account.
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They said Even was taken to a “secure area” inside the Microsoft Theater by TGA security staff where he was then questioned by venue security as well as “TGA-hired onsite LAPD officers.” They said he was then taken into custody and transported to a local police station for booking by the TGA-hired LAPD officers in their patrol vehicle. When asked about that version of events, a representative from the LAPD would only confirm that the individual had been transported to a station. Since no arrest was made, it’s unclear how long he was held for questioning.
While this may be the first time Even risked arrest, it was far from his first publicity stunt. Before stealthing his way on stage at one of the gaming industry’s biggest events of the year in front of an audience of over a million people, Even crashed a BlizzCon panel, went viral for pranking the L.A. Clippers fan cam, and appeared on right-wing conspiracy show Infowars at least twice.
The Clippers stunt came in October 2019. Amid the Hong Kong protests, Even momentarily appeared on the fan cam at the team’s home stadium, only to immediately hold up a black t-shirt that read, “Fight for Freedom Stand with Hong Kong.” China had blacklisted the Houston Rockets after their general manager tweeted out a picture of the same t-shirt just a couple of weeks earlier.
The next month, Even interrupted a BlizzCon 2019 panel with a similar message in support of the Hong Kong protests. Blizzard had suspended Overwatch pro Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai the prior month for doing the same, and along with the NBA and other companies, came under fire at the time for its failure to stand up for Hong Kong’s democratic protesters.
As Motherboard points out, this made Even a ripe target to be co-opted by right-wing political actors who saw the opportunity to attack seeming liberal hypocrisy on the issue. But Even was also apparently already a big fan of at least one of Infowars’ hosts, Owen Shroyer. He said as much in a 2019 appearance, calling Shroyer his “favorite person on Infowars,” while in a second appearance in 2020 Shroyer called Even “one of the young stars of the conservative movement.”
While Even’s own social media activity appears to be almost exclusively concerned with the Hong Kong protests and censorship by the Chinese government, his journey from protester to Infowars guest is also a perfect example of the ambiently reactionary online pipeline that can lead one from Googling political issues to ending up on right-wing content channels. (Even was seemingly 12 during his first Infowars appearance.) It’s also a reason why some were quick to interpret his nonsensical remarks about Bill Clinton and Orthodox Judaism as potentially antisimetic.
Prior to last night, Even’s last tweets were from March 2021 and were about concerns over the rise in hate crimes toward Asian Americans. Infowars, meanwhile, has seen founder Alex Jones successfully sued for hundreds of millions by the parents of the Sandy Hook school shooting victims. Most recently, however, the site tried to hold court with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who used the appearance to praise Hitler, a heel turn that comes amid a larger wave of antisemitism in conservative circles.
It was in front of that backdrop that some worried Even’s stunt was secretly some racist 4Chan deepcut. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, who interviewed Even earlier today, said he appeared to understand Hebrew, and called him “almost certainly a Jewish prankster.”
He’s also disavowing his previous Infowars appearances, even while continuing his trolling in messages with other journalists.
“I never was an avid viewer [of Infowars] nor am I now,” he told Motherboard. He reportedly went on to call Clinton “a true inspiration, especially in the gaming space.”