Debarkle: Draft outline

Coming this month (and probably for most of the year) is “Debarkle”, a history of the Puppy Kerfuffle of 2015, the events that preceded it, the political context and how it presaged events in US politics that followed it.

What follows is the draft section and chapter order. Naturally, what will actually happen is something different from this but this is the outline I’m working to.

Roughly it is in chronological order but with various chapters flashing forward or flashing backwards to keep themes together. External politics events are also a key part of this story, some of which will get their own chapters but in other cases they will be referenced in more fannish chapters to give context and establish time periods. Sadly, a lot of those external political events are violent ones but they are ones relevant to the times and also the discussions and the political atmosphere.

There are some special recurring chapters:

  • Dramatis Personae: these chapters look at backstories to some recurring names or groups in the story. I’ve tried to keep these to a minimum but if I find that I’m writing longer paragraphs about the background to given person, I may split that off into an extra one of these. Generally, they’ll cover the ‘story so far’ up to that point. So, John Scalzi and Vox Day (and maybe the Nielsen Hayden’s) get early chapters before the opening act of this http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/006122.html. So these chapters don’t all end up in section 1, many people will appear in the main narrative before they get one of these chapters but with a briefer introduction.
  • Meanwhile: these chapters cover things away from the main Puppy story but which, again, would otherwise become long intruding paragraphs of context. An obvious example is RaceFail 2009, which involved no puppies but did involve notable people in fandom. Likewise, a discussion of the 2015 Hugo awards can’t avoid discussion of RequiresHate and the Mixon report. You can skip these if you want to stick to the main plot. Part 6, covering 2020, is all Meanwhile.
  • Some book reviews: With the Hugosauriad I was pleased with how the two chapters looking at If You Were a Dinosaur My Love and the right-wing reaction to it worked out. The Debarkle is about many things but one of those things is stories. Currently these reviews will include Monster Hunter International, Redshirts, Ancillary Justice and the Broken Earth Trilogy, as well as some selected shorter fiction.

Speaking of the Hugosauriad, because that project contains chapters on Rachel Swirsky’s story and on Chuck Tingle, neither will get their own chapter in Debarkle. Obviously, both will get discussed but the longer coverage is in the Hugosauriad.

Currently, the plan is 6 sections.

  1. Beginnings 1880 to 2010. All the background and setting the scene.
  2. 2011 to 2014. This covers the SFWA conflicts and the first two Sad Puppy campaigns but also looks at Gamergate.
  3. 2015. This section is the most chronological and most chapters cover events in a given month up to the smoky skies of Sasquan. “Phew!” we all say in August, “Looks like we defeated fascism for good this time!” and Donald Trump enters stage right.
  4. 2016-2017. Two parallel stories – the political story with the alt-right and Donald Trump and also the story of how the Puppy campaigns fizzled out. SP4, the non-event of SP5, the Dragon Awards and how Larry finally gets his participation prize.
  5. 2018-2019. Follows the political story with some delves back into fandom. Specifically this is the politics of Sad and Rabid versions of the right in the age of Trump. The crappiest gate aka ‘Comicsgate’ will get a look in, as will the 2019 Nebulas, as ‘compare and contrast’ with the Puppy campaigns.
  6. Meanwhile 2020: Aside from an initial dive into the RWA’s meltdown, this section looks at the hell year in terms of the perspectives of the Puppy Protagonists. Dominating it are three major elements of the year, Qanon (particularly with Vox Day), Covid (Sarah Hoyt) and ‘Stop the Steal’ (Larry Correia but also Day and Hoyt).

Section 3 (i.e. the actual plot) is likely to blow-out. Three sections of aftermath may look like a lot but as the main thesis of the project is that the themes and cognitive style of the “crazy” behaviour of the US right in 2020 were already overt and apparent in 2015, just at a different scale and context. Note, the thesis isn’t that the Puppies caused later events (they are all minor bit players in bigger story, if that) but rather that the same underlying cultures and attitudes on the right that erupted as the Puppies in fandom, later erupted at a bigger scale (and at greater human cost) in US politics. Sections won’t be of equal length.

As always, suggestions, comments etc are welcome but it will also end up being whatever gets written at the time!

  • Intro: Jan 6 2021
  • Part 1: Beginnings 1880 to 2010
    A short history of the Hugo Awards 1953 to 2000
    Dramatis Personae 1: John Scalzi
    Dramatis Personae 2: Theodore Beale
    Tor, Baen and Amazon 1990 -2011
    Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America 1965 to 2010
    March 1, 2005: Electrolyte
    Dramatis Personae 3: Larry Correia
    2007: Monster Hunter International
    Meanwhile: Barack Obama
    Meanwhile: Racefail 2009
    2010 Hugos and the SFWA
  • Part 2: 2011 to 2014
    2011: Larry Goes to Worldcon
    2012-13: The Day-Scalzi Feud
    Meanwhile: Mitt Romney
    2013 “How to get Correia nominated for a Hugo”
    2013: Redshirts
    Dramatis Personae 4: N.K.Jemisin
    2013: Trouble at the SFWA
    Dramatis Personae 5: Sarah Hoyt and the Mad Geniuses
    Opera Vita Aeterna
    2014: Sad Puppies 2
    2014: Ancillary Justice
    2014: Vox Gets the Boot
    Dramatis Personae 6: John C wright and the Evil League of Evil
    Dramatis Personae 7: George R R Martin
    2014: The Hugos go to London
    Meanwhile: Requires Hate
    Meanwhile: GamerGate
    Dramatis Personae 8: Brad Torgersen
  • Part 3: 2015
    January: Announcing SAD PUPPIES 3!
    February: Rabid Puppies 2015
    March: Warnings
    April Part 1: TSHTF
    April Part 2: Hugos Hit the News
    Dramatis Personae 9: Mike Glyer and File 770
    May: Planning Ahead
    E Pluribus Hugo
    June Part 1: The Tor Boycott
    Totaled
    June Part 2: The Human Toll
    July: Crescendo
    August: Sasquan
    September-December: Taking Stock
    Meanwhile: Donald Trump
  • Part 4: Fall of the Puppies 2016-2017
    The Broken Earth Trilogy
    Quarter 1 2016 Part 1: Sad Puppies 4
    Quarter 1 2016 Part 2: Rabid Puppies
    Meanwhile: The Rise of the Alt Right
    Dramatis Personae 10: Jon Del Arroz
    Enter the Dragon
    Quarter 2: Reactions
    Meanwhile: GOP goes Trump
    August: Midamericon
    September: Dragon Awards 2016
    Meanwhile: Me Too
    Meanwhile: President Donald Trump
    The Sad Demise of SP5
    Rabid Puppies 2017
    Worldcon 75 – Finland
  • Part 5: The Trump Years 2018-2019
    Overview
    Comicsgate
    Meanwhile: Qanon
    Changing fortunes at the Dragon Awards
    Meanwhile: Black Lives Matter
    Gender at the Hugo Awards
    Meanwhile: 20booksto50 and the Nebulas
    Dramatis Personae: Mixed Fortunes
    The Hugos and the Campbell Legacy
  • Part 6: Meanwhile 2020
    Trouble in Romance
    Covid 19
    Black Lives Matter
    US Presidential Election
    “Stop the Steal”
  • Conclusion: Reality and the Imagination

Bonus! Here is a Rabid version of the cover art.

Ringo and Comicsgate (aka the crappiest gate)

Comicsgate, the culture war rebellion that was so self-defeating that it managed to turn its own harassment campaign against itself still drifts on. The anti-free speech group that engaged in online harassment campaigns against multiple creators (e.g. Magdalene Visaggio, Sue DeConnick, Alyssa Wong, Noelle Stevenson and Ta-Nehisi Coates to name just a few) likes to style itself in the standard alt-right opposite-day rhetoric as being pro-free speech and opposed to “cancel culture” “mobs”. The movement engaged in verbal abuse, rape threats, death threats and doxxing as well as calls for boycotts and campaigns to get creators fired for their views. Connected with the harassment campaigns were various crowd-funding attempts by comicsgate creators such as Ethan Van Scriver to take advantage of the outrage marketing to help fund their own projects. [for examples see the references]

When Vox Day decided to attach himself to the movement [see my coverage in the references] the amount of abuse increased but much of the toxicity turn in on itself with pro-Day and pro-Ethan Van Scriver factions attacking each other. Caught in the crossfire (or fuelling the crossfire depending on who you ask) was our old pal Jon Del Arroz, who after spending a few years on his own harassment/culture-war grift, is currently complaining, as a consequence of his comicsgate experience, about right-wing culture war grifters [references].

Well that’s two paragraphs just to cover the background. What has all that got to do with John Ringo?

Currently there is a crowdunding campaign on Indiegogo to turn John Ringo’s zombie apocalypse Black Tide Rising series into a series of graphic novels [references]. The creators involved are Chuck Dixon, Derlis Santacruz, Brett R Smith, and Dave Dorman.

Veteran writer Chuck Dixon became embroiled in the alt-right comics culture war after being recruited into Vox Day’s Arkhaven Comics ‘Alt Hero’ line of comics. Day, in case anybody here has forgotten, is infamous for his support of terrorist Anders Brevik and called the mass murder of over 70 people (the youngest of whom was 14) “a highly effective blow against the political machine”. Day’s randomly vandalised version of Wikipedia also spreads conspiracy theories that casts people convicted of child abuse as victims of state conspiracies [references]. I mention all that not to say that somehow Dixon is guilty by association but to point out which things bother these ‘alternative voices’ in comics and which things very notably do not seem to bother them at all.

Of the others, Brett R Smith openly aligned himself with the comicsgate campaign eg:

However, Smith’s most notable connection was with the comic Jawbreakers, which he worked on with notable comicsgate figure Richard C. Meyer. Smith also attempted to produce a comic in support of violent far-right protestor Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman. Chapman, a man with convictions for robbery, theft, and illegal weapon sales, became something of a hero among the alt-right when he was filmed beating protestors with a stick. Chapman later attempted to set up his own quasi-Proud Boys street-fighting spin off called ‘Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights’. Smith said of Chapman: “I concur but we have an army of our own. @BasedStickMan_ @ProudBoysUSA @Oathkeepers all kept the peace. They stood firm & we won the day.” [references]

I suspect that just listing all this stuff in one place and pointing to the connections will engender counter-criticism that doing so is ‘cancel culture’ or stirring up an SJW-mob. It isn’t. If people want to buy a John Ringo story in comic book form then that’s their business but we shouldn’t be shy about discussing the overt and publicly stated views of the creators. If people state they are engaged in a culture war then it is really odd, indeed psychologically unhealthy, to pretend that they aren’t.

Meanwhile, Baen Books is promoting the crowdfunding campaign on Twitter and in their forum.


References

Day confirms the Castalia retreat

I suggested a few days ago that it looked like the far-right publishing house Castalia had stopped publishing new science fiction. There was not an immediate reaction from Vox Day, the white nationalist behind the publisher. However on his blog [archive link] today he more-or-less confirms what was apparent:

“In light of the changes in the ebook market and our retreat from the Kindle Unlimited space, we’ve been making some strategic changes at Arkhaven and Castalia House. Now that we’ve successfully entered the video space, we’re concentrating our efforts on our strongest fiction and non-fiction properties, primarily because we don’t have the bandwidth to devote to everything.

This is why we’ve returned the publishing rights to their books to a number of our authors, although we continue to support them and their self-publishing efforts, and why we have methodically reduced the number of books that we are publishing. Our sales remain strong, which tends to indicate that our revised approach is a viable one.”

So what does Day mean be ‘our strongest fiction and non-fiction properties’. There are some clues.

  • We know John C Wright has at least partially been dropped or moved on.
  • We know that the core of this announcement was shifting what comic would be provided to people who had pledged to a crowd funding campaign. Day is shifting from a story by Rolf Nelson to an adaptation of one of his own books.
  • In a comment Day says: “And given some of the lessons we’ve learned, we are no longer going to push IP that we do not control into other media.” What IP does Day control? What he writes himself.

The problem with being a publishing house is you have to deal with two groups of people best avoided in business: writers and readers. Castalia’s business model also includes a third: Amazon. It sounds like Day has problems with all three. As part of the same comment I quoted above he says:

“Publishers are in a trap of sorts. If a book doesn’t sell well, the author thinks he should have self-published. If the book sells really well, the author thinks he should have self-published.”

Castalia was offering very little: minimal editing, very variable cover design and a brand name that was appealing only to a very narrow and ideologically defined base. Since 2014, the technological knowledge needed to self-publish on Amazon has become more broadly understood by authors in general. It’s still weird but there is plenty of free advice available and also mini-publishing outfits willing to provide the relevant services for better return than Castalia and without the associated stigma.

Springtime for Bialystock and other stories

More than one person has asked me about Vox Day’s move into the movie business. I considered writing about it the other day but it’s always a fine line between keeping an eye on the alt-right and inadvertently helping whatever con game is going on. Specifically, crowd funding a film that never gets made is a simple way for an unscrupulous person to make money out of gullible people and if you can blame the film not being made on evil SJWs then a cynical person can even avoid getting blamed for not delivering. Is Vox Day such a person? I don’t know but I believe his ethics are dubious in other ways.

In the end curiosity got the better of me and so I went to see who and what is going on just in case other things happen.

So a short summary. Vox Day released a ‘trailer’ for a film version of one of his publishing house’s comics: “Alt-Hero: Rebel’s Run”. The trailer is in two parts. The first part is a mix of some footage of a woman in sunglasses in a car (presumably the Rebel character from the comic). This is edited together with bits of stock footage to give an impression of an action movie. After that is a pitch about a possible movie based on the property with interviews with the comics writer Chuck Dixon, Vox Day and the proposed producer and director of the film.

The film hasn’t been made yet so the actor and the footage is neither here nor there currently. It’s the start of a crowd-funding campaign to get investors to fund the production of the film.

looking for investors

The production company Galatia Films appears to be a real company that is involved in real films. The man named as producer, Daniel McNicoll, main claim to fame is a documentary about swords in films which mainly features lots of clips from other films as well as interviews with Viggo Mortensen and Karl Urban. The film was promoted by Alex Jones of Infowars [https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Alex_Jones] who had McNicoll on his show. The proposed director, Scooter Downey, is also a real person whose main credit is producing a propaganda documentary for the dodgy right wing ‘journalist’ Mike Cernovich.

In the middle of the scheme is a company set up specifically to make the film called “Viral Film Media“. Regular readers will note that the initials are “VFM” i.e. ‘vile faceless minions’ Day’s nickname for his followers. Having said that Day himself is not part of the company as such.

Details about the company are available from the crowd-funding platform that is being used. This is a somewhat obscure platform called “Silicon Prairie” based in Minnesota, which was Day’s home state until he fled abroad. The specific VFM page is here https://vfm.sppx.io/ [archive link]

VFM has been set up as a limited liability company [an LLC https://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/llc.asp ] and currently has assets of $297,423 which is all as cash or cash equivalents. It has a set of directors which include Daniel McNicoll who is also Executive Director of Galatia Films. Vox Day isn’t a director or an officer of the company, which is interesting.

The aim of the crowd funding is to raise between $750,000.00 and $1,070,000.00. Which is both a lot of money and hardly any money at all depending on how you look at it. There’s a nifty breakdown of how the money will be spent.

  • Creative: Writer, Producer, Director and Actors:
    • $174,250.00-$273,490.00
  • Production: Production Staff, Art Department, Proceeds Camera, Food, Lighting, Sound, Wardrobe, Make-up, Props, Travel, Locations, Production Office:
    • $209,100.00-$308,530.00
  • Post-Production: Editing, Music, Sound, Title, CGI, Graphics, Deliverables:
    • $209,100.00-$308,530.00
  • Marketing:
    • $41,820.00-$41,820.00
  • Contingency expenses:
    • $41,820.00-$41,820.00
  • Professional fees (legal, accounting):
    • $20,910.00-$20,910.00

The company boast of already having secured the services of a scriptwriter for the film, a certain Vox Day.

Securing a writer is an important step

The company hasn’t spent much money yet although it did spend $3,054 on the trailer. People have made successful films for less than a million dollars but there aren’t many examples. Notably, Vox gets paid as a writer so long as the film company starts production. Which makes this definitely different from the plot of The Producers, as the incompetent Nazi writer in that film doesn’t get paid.

[ETA: If you visit the Galatia website you will see a trailer for the film Goodbye Christopher Robin. Obviously this isn’t one of the company’s films. The connection is that, according to IMDB, one person in the company was an uncredited “development executive” for the film.]

Did fandom cause the collapse of civilisation or vice versa? Let’s Assume Neither :)

It’s been a long time since I linked to a post by the improbable 2016 Campbell Award Finalist and Inaugural Dragon Award Winner for Best Horror Novel That Was Actually A Space Opera, Brian Niemeier but a posy at his blog caught my eye [direct link, archive link].

Brian’s politics mixes standard alt-right nationalism and misogyny with a particularly reactionary form of Catholicism. People may recall Brian’s concern that literal demons are controlling the left (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/demons-and-witches-and-the-left/ ), so not exactly a Pope Francis or Vatican II fan.

Anyway, Brian has a hypothesis about religion and fandom:

“Kicking Christianity out of public life didn’t usher in a bright, sexy chrome utopia. Instead of directing their pious energies into scientific pursuits, America did what everyone does absent Christianity: They turned pagan.”

‘X-thing is a religion’ is a bit of a cliche but I don’t think that analysis is wholly wrong. Rather, I don’t think religion is really a single social phenomenon at all but a whole bunch of things — which is why cultures don’t follow one of Christianity/Islam/Judaism have quite different boundaries as to what is and isn’t religious and how religion plays a role in wider society*. So, sure, I can believe there’s some commonality between fandoms and religion.

Indeed, I’d go further and say that I think how we engage with fiction and products of the imagination has a close connection with spirituality and how religion has become a part of human culture. Brian is making a different argument though:

“Human beings are wired for worship. If social pressure discourages worshiping God, those with less fortitude will worship trees, rocks, or even plastic figurines.


Religious identity was the engine that built the West, and it’s still a major motivating force elsewhere in the world. What has happened in the American Empire is that Christian identity has shattered, and the pieces have been scattered throughout various hobbies.


Which was precisely what the main players in the Enlightenment wanted–to reduce religion to a hobby indulged in the home with no effect on public life.”

Fandom therefore being the eventual warped expression of people’s instinct towards religion suppressed by the machinations of Enlightenment philosophers. I think we can safely assume that this is not the case. However, the next paragraph is what really caught my eye:

“To see how people’s identities have gotten mixed up in their hobbies, take a quick glance at the ‘gate controversies popping up among various fandoms on a more or less daily basis. #GamerGate was the big one, but it failed due to infiltration by controlled opposition and exploitation by online grifters. It’s telling that every subsequent fandom revolt has enjoyed a brief honeymoon period before skipping straight to the “milked by grifters” stage. “If a man loses faith in God, he doesn’t believe nothing, he’ll believe anything,” is illustrative here.”

It can be hard to tell with the alt-right what is a bad-faith nonsense and what is sincere nonsense. Occasional you get paragraphs like this that are so lacking in self-awareness that they can only be a sincere expression of some very confused beliefs.

As a reminder: Brian was not a major figure in the high points of the Sad Puppy campaigns (a relevant example of one of the right wing uprisings in fandom) but leveraged those campaigns to get his books promoted by the Rabid Puppy slates into a Campbell nomination and a Dragon Award. Brian was also the charmer who tried to stir up a second Dragon Award nomination into another culture war battlefront in a bid to get more votes for his book. (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/niemeier-wants-the-dragon-awards-to-be-a-culture-war-but-the-culture-doesnt-want-to-play/ ) There may be better example of the ‘milked by grifters’ stage of the Sad Puppy Campaigns but only because it was never not a grift but Brian is a good example of late stage band wagon jumping.

“Few now can imagine–by design–a time when popular culture wasn’t partitioned into myriad fractured fandoms. Sure, people had different tastes, but there were cultural touchstones everybody shared, and more of them. Everybody tuned in to The Shadow. Everybody read Edgar Rice Burroughs. Everybody saw Gone with the Wind. But a people with a shared culture and a strong identity is hard to conquer, so universal popular culture had to go. Fandom was the murder weapon used to kill Western culture.”

Again a reminder: Brian writes anime-inspired right wing science fiction about people fighting in space-robot suits. He’s not exactly aiming for the mainstream. It’s that lack of awareness of his own micro-niche writing that makes me think he genuinely believes that’s what happened — that rather than technology and population growth making it economically easier for people to find stories that appealed to more finely delineated niches, that this was an actual plot to divide society.

Does he really think he would be happier if the only books or films available where the most mainstream ones? Also, if he believed that then shouldn’t he be doing his utmost to just consume the most modally consumed media? But it is like the person who wants religion to be mandatory who doesn’t get that it wouldn’t necessarily be their religion that would be enforced

He finishes his essay thus:

“Fortunately, there are creators laboring to forge new culture in the tradition of our ancestors. For a refreshing take on the mecha genre that clears away all the stale cliche cobwebs, check out my new martial thriller Combat Frame XSeed.”

Irony is dead, a knock-off Kindle Unlimited far right combat mecha killed it.

*[Not that Christianity, Islam or Judaism follow the same template either, but the similarities are what tend to shape what Western culture regards as the things a religion has: a god, a priest, a temple, a holy book, quasi-laws, exclusivity]

“based on outrage, not actual products”

I know many regular readers of this blog will not be sad to learn that Jon Del Arroz has deleted his Twitter account. I shan’t rehash Jon’s various actions over the past few years but these links are relevant:

http://www.jimchines.com/2018/01/jon-del-arroz/

https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/and-i-would-have-got-away-with-it-too/

The latest twist in the Ballad of Del Arroz is comicsgategatecomicsgate related. According to JDA himself, Ethan Van Sciver (arguably driving force behind the online harassment campaign known as ‘comicsgate’) had told him to go away:

“Ethan finally came out and said he didn’t like me over the weekend, told me to “go away”, as if I didn’t have any part of this movement before he even showed up. The hubris in that statement and resentment shows that he blames me for his crumbling empire, even though I have little to do with him (I’ve not been around his youtube crew at all for 2 months now!). Last night, he escalated attacks by coming after someone for following me on Twitter, accusing him of being a “Jon del Arroz acolyte” and promptly blocking him.” http://delarroz.com/2018/11/13/two-face-finally-came-for-me/

JDA himself has been variously harassed and counter harassed since the conflict between Vox Day and EVS over the ‘comicsgate’ label erupted in September. Surprisingly, when a movement based on trolling, name calling and harassments falls out with itself the result is not an amicable break-up and everybody agreeing to let bygones be bygones.

JDA also has a more recent blogpost on why comicsgate failed: http://delarroz.com/2018/11/16/a-failed-movement-in-three-acts/

It’s worth a read because it provides some insights into how a participant in one of these campaigns percieves the arc it follows. Jon identifies three phases to comicsgate:

  1. Identify The Problem and Raise Awareness
  2. Alt-Hero ushers in a revolution of crowdfunds
  3. A movement falls to contraction and fighting

It is phase one that Jon identifies as the ‘fun’ part. Of course, that was the part where the comicsgaters were primarily harassing actual writers and artists. The ‘unity’ was unity in spreading hatred and inciting harassment. The second phase was when people tried to make money out of the suckers, um ‘activists’. The third phase was when the infighting started for multiple reasons but JDA ignores the most obvious one: campaigns like comicsgate reward obnoxious behaviour and hence any internal dispute is likely to escalate.

And Jon almost, almost, almost gets it:

“The whole premise was based on outrage, not actual products, and so these guys have to perpetually stoke outrage…”

Yes, yes we know. That’s what people were pointing out from wayyyy before ‘comicsgate’ started. That’s why we’ve been using the term ‘outrage marketing’

Is Vox Day Crowd Funding Himself?

Vox Day’s current attempt at crowdfunding a comic has fallen foul of platform Indiegogo’s terms of service. Vox Day has blamed this on people not liking his politics (i.e. people not liking him praising a guy who murdered teenagers) but Indiegogo has said little other than that the campaign violated its terms of service. Notably, the campaign had reached its final stage, so it is an odd point for Indiegogo to cancel it for almost any reason.

I say “almost”. One reason that might apply towards the end of a campaign is the platform looking at patterns of pledges and seeing something that disturbs them. In particular, a crowdfunding platform would have reasons to be concerned with behaviour akin to money-laundering because it might make the platform implicated in a crime. Now, I’ve zero reasons to think Vox Day is involved in any actual criminal money laundering but the dodgy yet non-criminal behaviour of paying yourself via a crowdfunding campaign is something he might do.

By itself, I don’t believe paying yourself via crowdfunding is illegal but it is in breach of the terms of service:

Prohibition against self-contribution
You, or anyone acting on your behalf, may not make Contributions to your Campaign–we call these “self-contributions.” Self-contributions are prohibited both by Indiegogo and our payment processor, and either Indiegogo or our payment processor may take actions like rejecting or blocking Contributions for any length of time or suspending your Indiegogo account, if either Indiegogo or our payment processor, in our sole discretion, discovers self-contributions.” https://www.indiegogo.com/about/community-guidelines

However, I don’t doubt all sorts of crowdfunding campaigns will have occasionally added some of their own money to get their campaign over the final finish line.  The hazard comes from routinely doing so throughout a campaign, which might be regarded as deceptive by the platform and also might indicate activity that was illegal in some other way and which the platform would not want to be a party to.

A couple of things support this possibility.

  1. Vox Day has posted that he was told by Indiegogo that his campaign was suspended because of “unusual activity”. http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/10/unusual-activity.html What kind of activity on crowdfunding platform would be “unusual” other than patterns of payments?
  2. Vox Day’s previous comic book crowdfunding activity on the now-defunct platform Freestartr had patterns of unusually large pledges.

I can’t link to Freestartr any more but the NPR Reveal podcast looked at the pledges in its recent episode on ComicsGate:

Amanda Rob: “Most of it’s from a anonymous donors and a lot of it comes in very large increments, some up to $5000 each which is weird because the average donation to a crowdfunding project is about $66.”

Al letson: “But we don’t know if he actually raised that money. It looks like it, but we don’t know that for a fact.”

Amanda Rob:”I think that’s a really good point because Alt-Hero was raising money on a crowdfunding site called FreeStartr, and apparently Vox Day helped create it. It’s a private site. It’s totally black box. There’s no way to find out who made most of the donations, where the money came from, where it went, if it actually existed. I did find out that the company that processed the credit card payments decided to stop working with FreeStarter a few months back, and I tried to get in touch with the company to find out why and they wouldn’t talk to me. Then Alt-Hero had already way surpassed its fundraising goal and is publishing now a series of comic books.” https://www.revealnews.org/episodes/never-meet-your-super-heroes/

Crowdfunding has its own marketing effect as well as a way of raising money to fund a project. The process of crowdfunding gives a purpose to early marketing of a product by adding a call to action (pledge some money) and also helps hype the project if the crowdfunding is successful. Ploughing your own money into a crowdfunding campaign would be an effective marketing technique but one which violated the rules of the platform.

Mass re-allocation of funds to create a publicity storm via misuse of a payment gateway/station (or massstormpaystation as it should be known) sounds like something close to Vox’s MO. As with Rabid Puppies, a supposed uncoordinated activity by many individuals being surprisingly coordinated.

There is no way of investigating this much further. It could be simply that Vox’s cult-like followers just do stuff that in hindsight is hard to distinguish from one person with multiple accounts. Put another way, we already know that Vox really does have many meat-puppet* like followers who genuinely aren’t him but which can be hard to distinguish from sock-puppets. IndieGoGo would find it difficult to prove any self-payment beyond the most blatant but would have multiple ways of flagging suspicious patterns of payment. Their terms of service allow them to suspend campaigns without explaining why in any depth.

*[I mean this kind of meat puppet https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MeatPuppet and not this kind https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meat_Puppets obviously]

CoOrDiNaTeD aTtAcKs!

Cast your minds back to April 7 2015. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were beaten by the Connecticut Huskies in the NCAA Division I women’s basketball championship and Senator Rand Paul announced he was going to run for the Republic nomination for President of the United States. Meanwhile, in Sad Puppy related news, Larry Correia posted this: https://monsterhunternation.com/2015/04/07/addendum-to-yesterdays-letter/

“To the the SMOFs, moderates, new comers, and fence sitters I addressed yesterday, yes, we have disagreements with you. We’re happy to discuss them. We are not, however, happy to be libeled as the vilest forms of scum to walk the earth, and we are not happy to live in fear of career destruction. You want my part of fandom to coexist peacefully? You want to work out our differences and keep the awards meaningful? So do we. Though we disagree on the details and the issues, we also love this stuff. But coordinated slander campaigns, lies, character assassinations, threats, witch hunts? No… We won’t stand for that.” [CF: my emphasis]

“Coordinated slander”, oh my golly gosh! The issue being that the Sad Puppy campaign had become notable enough that its impact was being covered by the mainstream media. You’d think that was predictable — make a loud enough noise, eventually pay attention — but no, for Larry the news coverage must have been because of some hidden layer of coordination. A week later he was on the same theme: http://monsterhunternation.com/2015/04/14/george-r-r-martin-responds/

“So here is a question for you.  What term would you use to describe the shared politics of the dozens of reporters, columnists, and bloggers who have run similar articles this week with obvious false accusations that Sad Puppies supporters ran an anti-diversity slate, motivated by racism, sexism, and homophobia? Jerks? Yes, they are, but that is a bit too coordinated for mere jerkage. That was a political attempt to establish a political narrative.” [CF: my emphasis]

Changing topics but not themes and sticking with a Sad Puppy outlet for a moment, fast forward to February 3 2017. Milo Yiannopolous’s star had risen high with an invite to the Conservative Political Action Conference and a book deal with Simon & Shuster when anti-Trump Republican group The Reagan Battalion released an edited version of a 206 video in which Yiannopolous justified sex with 13 year olds. At Mad Genius Club, Kate Paulk was unhappy about Yiannopolous’s book deal being cancelled: https://madgeniusclub.com/2017/02/23/the-inadequacy-of-silence/

“What I care about is that someone who has – objectively – done not one damn thing wrong is the subject of a coordinated effort to not merely silence him, but disappear him. I’ve seen this happen in the past. It happened to Larry Correia. To Brad Torgersen. I didn’t get the full force of it last year, but instead got the cold shoulder of people doing their best to pretend I’d already been disappeared.” [CF: my emphasis]

The theme being coordination obviously, the idea that if multiple sources are saying similar things it must be because of hidden coordination. Of course, some people really do plan things and approaches. Obviously the Reagan Battalion planned their media campaign against Yiannopolous but the “coordination” claim is stronger than that and proposes that the subsequent fuss and related outrage was also somehow coordinated.

I was initially planning this post yesterday after I read a series of tweets from Ethan Van Sciver, the right wing comic book artist who claims the mantle of ‘ComicsGate’®™. EVS was the guy who had the big falling out with Vox Day in September. In a series of tweets he disappointed me slightly by using the word “organized” instead of “coordinated”. I shan’t link to the tweets because it messes with the WordPress layout but the combined message was this:

“This Wave of Organized Attacks on ComicsGate consisted of:
1. The rise of @sinKEVitch as leader of AntiCG!
2. Jeff Lemire calling pros to arms against us!
3. Darwyn Cooke’s widow baiting CG!
4 Three Bleeding Cool hitpieces on me!
5. Hit pieces in the Washington Post, & INVERSE
6. Hit piece in The Guardian! The Daily Dot!
7. Robbi Rodriguez sending me a photo of his anus!
8. Vox Day trying to co-opt ComicsGate for the Alt Right!
9. Patton Oswalt condemning ComicsGate!
10. Pablo Hidalgo of Lucasfilm compares ComicsGate to the KKK!
11. John Layman spews bile at 21 year old CG writer Nasser Rabadi for 21 consecutive tweets!
12. Kieran Shiach penned hitpiece in POLYGON!
13. Marvel Comics Chief Creative Office Joe Quesada weighs in to debate @DiversityAndCmx and EVS: Loses debate.” [CF: my emphasis]

Rather like the Yiannopolous defence, the charge of coordination here crosses political lines. EVS suggests a conspiracy between a disperate group that includes the Guardian and Vox Day. The Yiannopolous piece suggested coordination between the left and the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Like I said, this post was going to concentrate on a theme among culture wars and be a break from writing about the nomination process of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. However, the morning news presented this to me: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/09/24/politics/read-brett-kavanaugh-letter-senate-judiciary-committee/index.html

“These are smears, pure and simple. And they debase our public discourse. But they are also a threat to any man or woman who wishes to serve our country. Such grotesque and obvious character assassination—if allowed to succeed—will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from service. As I told the Committee during my hearing, a federal judge must be independent, not swayed by public or political pressure. That is the kind of judge I will always be. I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. The coordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out.” [CF: my emphasis]

It’s an interesting principled-tone Kavanaugh strikes whilst simultaneously accusing two different women of inventing ‘smears’ against him. And there is that tic again. Of course, yes, clearly the Democrats coordinate their opposition to his nomination just as the Republicans and other conservative groups have coordinated their support of him but the ‘coordination’ here is intended (as it does in the examples above) to imply that criticism is not just illegitimate but sinister and underhand.

“They” are out to get me and it doesn’t matter who ‘they’ are or that ‘they’ are a superfluous hypothesis to describe events. By casting events in this way, a call to action is made against the shadowy Them — who, to quote Kavanaugh, are a threat “any man or woman who wishes to serve our country”.

Personally I like to believe Them are giant ants. I prefer the classics.

 

 

 

 

You don’t control who gets to be fans

On the campaign trail in 2008, Sarah Palin said the following:

“We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.” http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2008/10/palin-clarifies-her-pro-americ.html

Ah, the “real” America – narrowly defined to where Palin felt she might get the most support. It’s easy to write comments like that off as cheap rhetoric but it is an infectious attitude that allows many Republicans to regard huge population centres of Americas as somehow not being ‘real’ Americans. If only your supporters count then every leader is a populist champion of the common folk.

With the Sad Puppies, the move was similarly absurd. Everybody who wasn’t a Sad Pup was quickly declared to be in league with Big Publishing. It didn’t matter if you a person with no connections with the publishing industry or even if you were actually a tireless promoter of independent publishing (e.g. Cora Buhlert, who does more to promote indy titles each day than Larry Correia et al does in a month), if you opposed the Sad Puppies you were declared an enemy of independent publishing — often by people like Larry Correia or Sarah Hoyt who were trad-published authors.

The only virtue this kind of appeal has is that it is neatly compact in its encapsulation of a set of vices:

  • It is a declaration of gatekeeping — they will get to decide who is real or not.
  • It is inherently being an asshole.
  • It is exclusionary in a lazy passive-aggressive way that allows them to be as racist or as sexist or as homophobic as they want without having to overtly target a group they don’t like.

As Comicsgatecomicscomicsgate is now on my roster of right-wing attempts to suck money from the gullible via anti-diversity rhetoric, I present for your consideration Ethan Van Sciver. When we last saw Sciver (or EVS as he is often acronymised) he was throwing a tantrum about Vox Day trying to co-opt the term “comicsgate”. Just to be clear about how hypocritical this is, consider the way he places himself or “comicsgate” (which he identifies as being HIM) as the champion of “fans”.

“ComicsGate IS the creative community working to please the fan community, or the customers.”

~

“We stand with the fan community. As always!”

~

“As it becomes more and more clear to normal people that SJWs were lying about #ComicsGate being “a harassment movement” () and that ComicsGate is an entirely healthy creative and consumer response to leftist toxicity in the comics industry…”

(all taken from EVS’s Twitter feed but representative of similar rhetoric in his videos).

It’s the same con-game as used by Palin, Sad Puppies and most recently by Vox Day on Comicsgatecomicscomicsgateof declaring themselves the champions of the ‘real’ fans or the ‘real’ people. If you are leftwing or heck, just want to read comics with more realistic women in them, then magically you aren’t real anymore and your purchases don’t count. That’s bad enough when it comes to comics, or with the Sad Puppies, books but when it comes to citizenship and who gets to be a ‘real’ American (or with Brexit rhetoric a ‘real’ Briton) it’s an authoritarian move aimed at disenfranchising people.