UPDATED: Daily Kos responds. See bottom of this post.
As many of you may already know, I not only write the Indie Comics Showcase, which features three crowdfunding / self-published comic creators every week, but I also (poorly) edit this blog. Occasionally, I get to assist comic creators with their crowdfunding campaigns, like I’ve done for my friend Mike Baron, the Eisner Award winning writer of Nexus and The Badger, and who is also well known for his lengthy runs on The Punisher for Marvel and The Flash for DC Comics.
After experiencing tremendous success with our previous two campaigns for his graphic novels the Thin Blue Line and Florida Man, Mike approached me with a new story he was writing that was, as he put it, ripped “straight from the headlines.” Based on the topic, we both suspected the book might prove to be controversial. We had no idea how right we were.
Baron’s latest graphic novel is called “Private American,” and it tells the story of a Cuban-American, who is an ex-Green Beret, and lives in south Texas. After he experiences tragedy at the hands of cartels, and witnesses how border patrol was constantly being overwhelmed, he decides to enact vigilante justice by doing what he knows best to stop the cartels, gangs, drug smugglers, and human traffickers from taking advantage of the helpless migrants.
It’s basically ‘What if the Punisher was fighting criminals at the southern border?’ It’s like “Death Wish” and “Rambo: Last Blood,” and it’s the subject matter that makes the comic controversial. The fact is that our border is being overrun, and it’s confirmed by the government along with numerous media outlets. Bizarrely, progressive leftists demand “no borders,” and are offended by any reporting, any stories, even fictional depictions of the crisis. And these leftist have demonstrated that they will use any means at their disposal to shut down opposing narratives whenever they can.
The Censorship on Twitter
Our Indiegogo campaign started off strong, raising $10,000 on the first day. We actively supported the campaign with marketing accounts on Facebook and Twitter. But unexpectedly, within a few days of launch, our Twitter account was permanently suspended without explanation. Despite Elon Musk’s pledge to reinstate suspended accounts, our page has not returned as of this writing. Musk has been exposing the truth about Twitter, revealing that Twitter was censoring and shadow-banning conservatives. While he is doing some good there, apparently our Twitter account was part of that original conservative purge, and isn’t a priority for reinstatement.
Despite the Twitter ban, we managed to surpass another $20,000 in backing funds through Indiegogo. For that milestone we announced a new variant cover by Dan Lawlis and launched a dual campaign on Kickstarter. That’s when we learned that Twitter is not the only big tech censoring conservatives.
The Indiegogo Shadow-Ban
Within a few days of the variant cover announcement, the cover artist asked why our campaign couldn’t be found via the search function. He had told his fans to just search for ‘Private American’ on Indiegogo’s search bar, or ‘Mike Baron’ and they could find it and support the campaign there. But it turned out that no matter how you searched for the project, it could not be found on Indiegogo without knowing the precise URL.
We eventually concluded that the campaign had been shadow-banned by our crowdfunding partner. Here’s a video below where I demonstrate plainly how the campaign is hidden:
While our shadow-ban was widely reported at various entertainment media outlets, the suppression went even further than hiding the campaign from search results. We soon discovered that Indiegogo has also hidden the campaign in Google results, and were even hiding the campaign from backers trying to follow for updates. So even if you opted in for updates on the campaign, you were not receiving those updates.
Here’s how that works.
Once the reality that we were being shadow-banned sunk in, and that Indiegogo was not responding to our requests for answers, we decided to stop promoting the existing Indiegogo campaign and leave it in an InDemand state so backers could still pre-order the book. We then shifted our efforts into the Kickstarter campaign, along with a new UK based platform known as Crowdfundr. We were stoked about Kickstarter since our previous campaign there had raised over $45,000 in 30 days.
The Kickstarter False-Flag
Kickstarter reviewed the campaign page for five days and gave us the green light, and once we launched we surpassed our modest $500 goal in the first hour. With 30 days left in the campaign, we decided to concentrate our marketing efforts on Kickstarter for the rest of the the campaign.
But something strange happened this week. Ugly messages from another Kickstarter member named ‘Gavriel Discordia’. In an unsolicited direct message to the campaign on Wednesday, she asked “Why is this book so racist?” The odd and insulting exchange is below. After her first message, I tried to mark the message as spam, but it didn’t work and another message followed. So then I reached out to Kickstarter for assistance on the spam function, and the tech support response recommended we report the account.
The Daily Kos Defamation
After reporting the account, I figured that would be the end of it, but the next morning a Google Alert notified me that The Daily Kos had published an article about the book. This left wing “news” website attracts nearly ten million visitors per month, and frequently harnesses mob mentality, encouraging readers to exploit reporting systems that allow them to purge dissenters from their preferred narrative.
In what amounts to an unprovoked hit piece, a frequent contributor to the website going by the name of Starr Mignon wrote a screed entitled “Punisher Creator Mike Baron Releases Another Racist AF Comic Book.” Not only did the article claim that an Eisner winning comic writer was writing a “domestic terrorist handbook,” she compared the comic (that she has not even read) to “The Turner Diaries” and “Mien Kampf.” The article also claims Baron’s previous graphic novel “Thin Blue Line” was a propaganda comic that told the story “about vigilante police officers who ‘have to’ go on a killing spree in black communities.“
As proof that Mignon has never read the Thin Blue Line graphic novel, the story is about an Hispanic single mom police officer. Her partner is black. Their job is protecting the town’s mayor during the riots. Nor has the writer read Private American. Only the creative team, our legal counsel, and a few members of the press have.
Not content with defaming Mike Baron, Starr Mignon ended her incendiary article with a call to shut down Baron’s fundraising efforts on Kickstarter and other platforms with instructions on how to do so.
We urge anyone who is as offended by this domestic terrorist handbook for bubblegum brains, to contact email@example.com and tell them ‘Hate has no place anywhere, let alone their platform where decent people go to bring their hopes and dreams to life to make the world a better place’.
As soon as I read the article, I sent the following message to the Editorial contact at Daily Kos, asking them to remove the defamatory post.
RE: yesterday’s article posted by Starr Mignon
I am the publisher of this comic book and nothing could be further from the truth about how it is being represented by your writer.
Their article is libel and defamatory and Mike Baron’s legal representatives are reviewing it now.
The book is about a former veteran who is Cuban-American who goes to war with the drug smugglers and human traffickers at the border after someone close to him is killed.
The protagonist of the book actually protects and saves the migrants and empathizes with them.
Mike Baron is an award winning writer and this type of misinformation is tortious towards his career as a writer.
The book is absolutely not racist, Mike Baron is not a racist, the story does not “promote hate,” and it is most certainly not in violation of Kickstarter’s terms of service. Kickstarter approved this project after a thorough review before launch.
Furthermore, the assertion that Baron’s last book “Thin Blue Line” depicts “vigilante police officers who ‘have to’ go on a killing spree in black communities” is the most defamatory, blood libel lies I think I’ve ever read. The book is about a Hispanic single mother and a Black cop who are dealing with riots in their city.
It is painfully clear that your writer never reviewed or read either of these books. Their lies have created a campaign to harm our crowdfunding efforts through false reporting of the Kickstarter project.
These are all disparaging, easily provable lies that the Daily Kos has published and will have an untold negative impact on our business.
I notice that this content is marked as “not subject to review by Daily Kos staff prior to publication.” Therefore, we now formally request that you immediately remove this dangerous misinformation before the close of business today, or you will be taking action on this matter.
Not surprisingly, the removal request was ignored. And unfortunately for us, their efforts produced their desired result, and Kickstarter bent the knee.
Within a few hours of the publication of the Daily Kos smear piece, Kickstarter notified us that our campaign for “The Private American,” had triggered another look at the campaign project, due to reports from their users, And while it was a project that they had previously approved, they decided to immediately suspend the campaign indefinitely, without contacting us for context or response, and locking the team out of being able to communicate directly to the supporters of the book, and refunding all the thousands of dollars that backers had committed to the project.
Their message said the following:
This is a message from Kickstarter’s Trust and Safety Team. We’re writing to let you know that recent activity on your project triggered a review.
Our team monitors projects throughout their funding periods to protect the Kickstarter community. We also review reports that we receive from members of our community. Projects are suspended only when we find strong evidence that they are violating the letter or spirit of Kickstarter’s rules.
A thorough review of your project uncovered one or more of the following violations:
- Inappropriate content, including but not limited to explicit or pornographic material
- Hateful or offensive content that fails to meet Kickstarter’s spirit of inclusivity by promoting discrimination, bigotry, or intolerance towards marginalized groups
As a result, your project has been suspended. This means that all funding has been stopped and backers will not be charged for their pledges. Once a project is suspended it cannot resume funding. No further action is required on your part.
We can’t comment on this suspension beyond what is stated in this message.
All follow up messages to Kickstarter have been ignored, and naturally, the Daily Kos comment section cheered.
The vile hit piece spread across social media, even prompting the actual creator of the Punisher, Gerry Conway, a legendary comicbook writer in his own right, to denounce Mike Baron as an “asshole” and a “white fascist,” while signal boosting the hit piece on his Twitter account to his 25,000+ followers.
@dailykos — Mike Baron is *not* the Punisher creator; the actual creators of the Punisher condemn his assholery and the white fascist embrace of the Punisher symbol. Please correct your headline. https://t.co/VdqXMlxuN7
— Gerry Conway Stands With Ukraine (@gerryconway) December 8, 2022
After the Daily Kos article began to be shared by other people in the comic book industry, I knew this had potential to do irreparable harm if we did not put a stop to it and get a retraction, but legal minds are slow and meticulous and do not act swiftly. And as the saying goes; “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Some of our supporters began to looking into the organizers of the smear campaign and began to see what appears to be a coordinated effort done in tandem by someone who could arguably be considered a competitor.
The Tortious Interference
RJ at Critical Blast began looked at Starr Mignon’s online persona. Investigative reporter Peter Pischke also looked into Gavriel Discordia. Starr Mignon has an old Twitter account, with the same name, avatar, and profile. It has lain dormant for years. The bio links to Mignon’s feminist culture website “Pink Nightmare Squad,” where she sells related stickers, comics, and other merchandise.
One interesting finding was that Pink Nightmare features a connection to the very same spam harasser ‘Gavriel Discordia’ on Kickstarter. Same name, and same avatar. This meant that Gavriel’s Kickstarter partner and collaborator on her project that she is currently crowdfunding is the very same Starr Mignon, who wrote the hit piece and launched a campaign to have our Kickstarter campaign shut down.
The pair claim to run a comic publishing company and seemingly coordinated with Daily Kos and Kickstarter to mass report our campaign in order to shut down our funding stream for our own publishing ventures using false flagging, misinformation and lies, mob tactics.
This adversarial pair of business partners not only run a comic publishing company like we do, but they are labeled as a “trusted producer” by Kickstarter. Through their relationship with Kickstarter, these dishonest activists coordinated in tandem through Daily Kos to mass report our campaign for TOS violations for the sole purpose to shut down our funding stream for our own comic publishing ventures through the nefarious means of false flagging, misinformation and and outright lies, and encouraging a mob of the easily offended to report our campaign.
There’s a term for this.
“…the act of intentionally interfering with someone’s business. This may be by directly interfering with a business deal, or by interfering with the day-to-day operations – or even by spreading false claims about the business.”
And if there is any doubt left that the Daily Kos campaign was directly coordinated by this self described comic publisher, then this response to Gerry Conway’s complaint should remedy that.
Thanks for the clarification, the title has been fixed. It was my bad. They way they pitch the writer in their projects was misleading.
— Gavriel Discordia (@PsyIndustries) December 9, 2022
The internet is forever
What exactly does “It was my bad” mean in this context? And “the title has been fixed”?
Is Gavriel Discordia the Daily Kos writer or is Starr Mignon? Are they one in the same? What’s going on here? Clearly they are connected. It would appear that an indie comic book publisher who raises funding on Kickstarter, created a malicious, provocative, and demonstrably defamatory article on the Daily Kos website, with the intent to weaponize their “fake news” article to target another comic book publisher for takedown on Kickstarter which resulted in a significant loss of earnings for the boycotted comic book publisher.
Seems like some very bad behavior that Gavriel, Starr, Daily Kos, and Kickstarter may all have to answer for.
Our friend Michael Bancroft reported on the situation on his livestream Thursdsay night.
My team is getting used to censorship. Our first campaign for Florida Man was also censored and banned from Reddit simply for being promoted by Bleeding Fool, but this level of coordinated censorship and business interference by big tech platforms has taken things to a whole new level. And the more this situation develops, the worse it looks. The writer at Daily Kos has made multiple edits to the article to make it seem even more damning, but strangely no grammatical errors, or the ample lies in the post, have been corrected.
I will update our supporters as this moves forward. We are currently exploring any and all legal remedies to this situation. In the meantime, supporters can follow our campaign at www.theprivateamerican.com and any interested backers can still support the comic at either Indiegogo or Crowdfundr.
UPDATE: The Daily Kos has finally responded to our communications. At around 35:00 minutes into this livestream, I discuss their response and my reply to them, and a lot more in this Critical Blast interview from Friday night below: