If you haven’t noticed recently, there was a pretty loathsome kickstarter project funded recently. TLDR, rapey (or at least advocating of rape. I have no personal evidence that he has ever committed rape, but it would be unsurprising given what he preaches) pick-up artist uses kickstarter to fund rape advocating pick up artistry handbook. Kickstarter have this pointed out to them and basically say “Sorry, nothing we can do about it”.
Confession: I was probably just going to roll my eyes at this and move on.
Then I read Jeff Kunzler’s take on this. In particular, I quote:
This is a large part of why you see women saying men cannot be feminists. Because they will say they support women, call themselves feminists, tweet about how much they hate misogynists, and when it comes to nerd bullshit, hypercapitalism, and being a proud consumer instead of a stand-up person, they will sell women out and continue to support a company that has profited from enabling rapists. Kickstarter made money off of Ken Hoinsky and the pathetic misogynists that donated to his projects. There is no cause, no purpose, no object worth supporting more than standing up to the thousands of years of misogyny and violence against women in our history. Worse more so that people like Ken and Kickstarter found a way to fucking profit off of telling men to force women to touch their genitals without their consent.
You know what? Fair point. Mea culpa. I (not personally, but as part of a group) have been correctly called on unacceptable behaviour. I will now stop engaging in said behaviour.
I’ve never been the most active user of Kickstarter, but I have funded a few things on it. As of now, I am no longer a Kickstarter user at all. I’ve deleted my account. There are other crowd funding sites, and I don’t need to be using one which supports this kind of filth (I would probably do this even if there were not other crowdfunding sites, but I admit it would be a harder choice).
The thing about boycotts, is they only work if after the company has changed their ways you go back to them. Otherwise what will happen is that they will simply consider you not part of their target demographic and go after the large body of people who just don’t give enough of a shit. By returning to them after they have fixed their behaviour you are providing a positive incentive for change.
So I’m precommitting to creating a new Kickstarter account and using it to fund something as long as the following two conditions are met:
- A complete apology is issued for this. No “I’m sorry people were offended” bullshit non-apologies need enter. The apology must contain words to the effect of “We’re really sorry. We fucked up. This should not have happened, and it’s totally our fault that it did”
- They issue a unilateral promise to not permit similar activity in future when it is brought to their attention
(I think the ship has now sailed on blocking the money going to the rape manual, otherwise I would include that too. As such I’m willing to label it merely a very unpleasantly learned lesson and hope they actually learned it)
If they do issue that promise and go back on it, I will consider them to be irreparably corrupt, delete my account again and never go back.
I think the course of action I am taking is an extremely reasonable one, and I would encourage you to take it too. Kickstarter is an organisation that is very directly about voting with your wallet. Lets use ours to tell them that their behaviour is unacceptable and they need to do better.
Then I expect you will also delete your Twitter account after I point out some accounts that have engaged in similar behavior and that Twitter does nothing about and keeps profiting from?
No, for a variety of reasons. The primary ones are that a) Kickstarter have already set themselves up as gatekeepers, thus abdicated their ability to say “Not our problem, we allow anything legal” and b) The moral responsibility to do something goes up significantly as you increase from providing tacit support to providing actual money (this applies to both kickstarter’s moral responsibility to do something about it and my moral responsibility to not support them) and c) I think it is more appropriate for people providing direct financial support to act as strict gatekeepers than people who provide communication channels.
With regards to your post of today, note that my intention is not to make an argument that you should ‘listen to’, in the sense that I expect it to convince you. I feel no urge to convince you boycotting Kickstarter is wrong. However, since I feel no reason to boycott Kickstarter over this, I do have the urge to understand why you feel boycotting Kickstarter is right. Which probably results in the exposure of some underlying (moral) assumptions, with which I may disagree. After all, isn’t it perfectly possible to understand your reasons and accept your conclusion, without sharing those assumptions?
So, whether the immoral cause is financially supported is an important factor. Let’s turn to Amazon. They sell similar books and provide a direct way to the authors of those books to make money, while profiting of the sales themselves. They may not have set themselves up as gatekeepers, but it would be appropriate for them to do so. Should you boycott them?
That post wasn’t actually about you. I am happy to discuss this.
Amazon is a tricky example. In general, I feel like I should be avoiding them for other reasons, but they’re just too damn convenient. So there’s a little bit of hypocrisy going on there, but it’s hard to go through life without some.
In the specific reason for the boycott though, I’m not actually aware of anything similar in the problematic sense on Amazon. That may be ignorance rather than reality. Note that I am not saying “I will boycott anyone who profits from PUA books”. PUA are skeevy, but they don’t fall into my category of “this is not an acceptable form of speech”. The specific issue is advocacy of violence, not merely misogyny (I obviously object to misogyny pretty strongly, but I think it falls under the category of “I will fight against people who hold these believes, but not against people who merely provide a neutral platform for them”).
Another distinction between Kickstarter and Amazon (I think) is the degree to which they are prepared to act as gatekeepers. Kickstarter have an explicit set of terms of service which say “We are going to intervene in things we regard as immoral”. Amazon seem to be much more hands off. The reason this matters is that once you have prepared yourselves to act as gatekeepers, you are essentially putting forth a moral framework which shapes the world. If you ban some things but not others, you are implicitly providing power to the things you are permitting. If you instead just have a hands off “Anything legal, we don’t care” attitude you are much more value neutral. I think it’s important to have a mix of moral and amoral services, but I think that if you want to enforce a moral code then you are opening yourself up to criticism of your moral framework and have to deal with it.
I am of two minds here: on one hand, I find the opinions, words, and practices of Mr. Hoinsky vile, and my first response is to suppress it. However, we would not have gotten far as a society if we only listened to our lizard brains; we need to be a bit more rational. Of all of the basic human rights, free speech is somewhat unusual, because it is very easy for one person to silence another: all he needs to do is create outrage over the speech and call for a boycott of the publisher, a thing which Twitter and Facebook make much easier than it has been at any time in the past. With enough repetitions, and enough publishers instituting policies like “No incitement of crime,” it no longer matters that the government can’t stop me from saying something, because I will have nowhere to say it.
And so, the most moral stance for Kickstarter to take on this whole debacle would be to say “Yes, we found this particular campaign to be utterly vile and a disgrace to humanity. However, we allowed it because the alternative would be worse.”