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:
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:
- Identify The Problem and Raise Awareness
- Alt-Hero ushers in a revolution of crowdfunds
- 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’
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.
- 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?
- 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]
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.
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.