MRA Group Honey Badger Radio Removed From Calgary Expo For False Information, Disruption
A GamerGate-associated group named "Honey Badger Radio" crowdfunded an appearance as exhibitors at CalgaryExpo, in part to sell pro-GamerGate merchandise, and in part to disrupt panels with a feminist angle. As a result of their disruptive behavior, the group has been removed from the convention. This has many GamerGate supporters shouting "censorship" and "misogyny" at the convention, though the convention acted within the bounds of its rules of conduct and for the good of its attendees.
The reason that the Honey Badger Radio group was shut down is that they were exhibiting against the rules of CalgaryExpo. Their crowdfunding campaign said:
In April of this year, the Honey Badgers plan to put on a booth at the Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo! We plan to infiltrate nerd culture cunningly disguised as their own. Each of us has been carefully crafting a persona of nerdiness through decades of dedication to comics, science fiction, fantasy, comedy games and other geekery, waiting for this moment, our moment to slip among the unaware. Once there we will start distributing the totalitarian message that nerd and gamer culture is… perfectly wonderful just as it is and should be left alone to go it’s own way.
That in itself is not against the rules; where the group got into trouble is that they acquired exhibitor space under false pretenses. Their show is broadcast by a men's rights activist (MRA) site, A Voice For Men, which is categorized as a "woman hating" website by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors hate groups and extremists. A Voice For Men also posted about Honey Badger Radio's plans for CalgaryExpo.
When one of the show's supporters asked why they weren't listed as an exhibitor, the organizers responded, "We will be available at our booth for all four days. We’re in stealth mode due to concerns about *ahem* people of a certain persuasion deciding to hassle the con organizers over having us space lepers at the show."
The group knew that people would have a problem with their attendance, so they used the name "the Honey Badger Brigade" and claimed to be representing this webcomic. Applying under false pretenses is against the rules of the convention, and was enough to get the group kicked out. Every convention has the right to approve or reject exhibitors, and lying about who you are and why you are attending does not endear you to convention organizers. The CalgaryExpo Exhibitor package says:
The Comic & Entertainment Expo Committee reserves the right to remove any person(s) who does not comply with the rules and regulations outlined in the Exhibitor Agreement, and the policies and procedures outlined on the website. No refund shall be given to exhibitors who are removed from the show.
In addition to this, the group also disrupted a panel yesterday. One of the panelists gave The Mary Sue this account:
We were about fifteen minutes into the panel when a woman in the second row stood up and identified herself as a Men’s Rights Activist. She and her male companion both came to raise issues they felt would not be covered by our panel. Raising points about the way men are portrayed in comics struck a note with all the panelists, as we agreed that we want to see a diversity across body types, characters, races, etc in mainstream comics. Not everyone wants to see a hero who looks like he’s built like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. They also accused us of presenting all women as victims, which was an outright lie and derailing tactic.
Their questions did take up quite a bit of time at the panel and served to derail the topic onto another tangent, which was frustrating for the panel and for those in the audience. It’s what they came to do, and in part, they succeeded. I would say that it brought up some great discussions though, allowing us to talk about the lack of representation for people of colour in comics and to give well deserved props to artists like Sophie Campbell, who has done an amazing job in showcasing a broad range of bodies with her art in Jem and the Holograms.
It’s disappointing that they weren’t there to have a conversation or to listen to what we, and members of the audience, were saying. They wanted to stand up and have their say, but not to listen or try to understand the points of view other people in the room had. This was further proven by the video discussion they posted later last night, in which they mentioned our panel and that we were “donning the ball gowns of our victimhood”, which I’m not even entirely sure how to take. I will admit to not watching the whole video, and I think anyone who attempts to watch it would understand why.
I truly believe in freedom of speech, but coming to a panel with the entire purpose of derailing it and shooting down the voices on the panel isn’t constructive. It appears that was their plan for the expo, to come and to loudly take over the spaces of other people – although it was not violent or threatening, it’s disrespectful, disappointing and offers a prime example of why these panels need to exist in the first place.
UPDATE: You can read a rough partial transcript of the panel at Pastebin, courtesy of Jennifer J. Medina.
If the Honey Badger Radio group was so interested in sharing their opinions, why didn't they apply for a panel at the convention? That certainly would've been a good way to speak to an audience. They could have attended under their actual name and website, sold their goods, and put on a panel without giving the convention any reason to remove them.But then it sure would be hard to cry "censorship" and (laughably) "misogyny," wouldn't it?
A thread on Reddit about all this has GamerGaters pushing others to use specific terminology, with one user saying:
If you're joining into the hashtag, make sure to call the @CalgaryExpo misogynists for evicting women. Put 'em on the defensive to the point where they have to elaborate further (and dig their own graves).
Google should autocomplete "Calgary Expo" with "misogynist" or "misogyny" before day's end.
Edit Do not use 'censorship.' They don't care. They believe they are morally justified. Use 'misogyny.' Paint them with their own labels.
It seems the Honey Badger Radio folks may even have wanted this outcome to rile up their GamerGate and MRA supporters. If they had attended under their actual name and conducted themselves like other attendees, the convention would have no reason to evict them.
CalgaryExpo did the right thing. Once word got out about what Honey Badger Radio was doing at the convention, the organizers immediately removed the group, while responding politely to everyone on social media. That's not censorship, and it's sure as hell not misogyny. That's adhering to their stated rules.