One of the great benefits of technology is how easily creators can get their creations to an audience, particularly through the Internet. But, like with any advancement in mass communication and sharing, maybe not everything released into the world should be there.
Several days ago, a web-based company called Kickstarter received some backlash concerning a project it had allowed to fundraise using its services. Kickstarter is a website where people with an idea and a plan, but not a whole lot of money or backing, can turn to the public to fund their projects. Depending on the amount of money you spend on supporting the project, you get certain items or services in exchange as predetermined by the individual(s) running it. I think one of the highest-priced tiers of awards I’ve seen for a project was about $10,000, with the lowest being around $5.
All in all, it’s a pretty cool website. I’m a big webcomic fan, and I’ve watched many webcomic artists fund printing of their comics in book format. I also love keeping track of any new technology, like the Oculus Rift, a virtual-reality headset that’s all the rave in the video game world and was successfully funded on Kickstarter. You may have also seen Kickstarter mentioned in raising record amounts of money to fund a movie based on the TV show “Veronica Mars,” when the studio that owns it was more than a little reluctant to fund it themselves.
Kickstarter is pretty much an elaborate and fun way to get people to preorder something. Creators get money upfront to offset production costs (or, in the case of “Veronica Mars,” prove to corporate doubters just how devoted and interested the fans are). Investors, on the other hand, can get fun exclusives or extras like T-shirts, limited posters, dinner with a celebrity or even a movie walk-on role, depending on the project.
In order to fundraise on the website, the project must be submitted and approved by the staff. It is then given a time limit by which the minimum amount, set by the project runner, must be met. If the minimum isn’t met in time, then the creator gets none of the money raised. Credit cards are only charged after and if that minimum is reached. The Kickstarter company makes money by taking a small percentage of the funds raised as a fee.
All in all, this place is great. It’s not the only website that offers fundraising services, but it’s certainly one of the most common ones. I hear more people talking about “Kickstarting” a project than they do any of the competitors. But like any website, even with monitoring, there are bound to be some more questionable fundraisers that make it through.
The particular project in question has been dubbed a “seduction guide,” a book detailing how to pick up women, based on a Reddit post where the individual behind the project posted his advice on the subject.
However, some of this so-called advice, according to several bloggers spearheading the opposition to the project, was practically encouraging sexual assault. The examples for what the author wanted to put in his book were all over Reddit, and the excerpts touted in articles and on blogs definitely seem to be supporting that assessment.
Kickstarter has guidelines for what projects can be submitted. The bloggers who called the project out for being pro-assault sent a petition and alert to the company, asking it to pull the project due to its offensive nature. Long story short, Kickstarter didn’t, the project was successfully funded, and now I’m here writing a column on the benefits and drawbacks of eliminating the middle man in creative creating.
Granted, Kickstarter released a sincere apology on its website, admitting it regretted not pulling the project, stating it was changing its guidelines to ban future “seduction guides,” and donating a chunk of money to an organization focused on raising awareness of and preventing sexual assault.
Creators like Kickstarter because it helps them jump past the middle man (agents, publishers, what have you), but really, Kickstarter is just another middle man, albeit one that lets you have more control over your own project. The beauty of the website is that people can fund the stuff they want. Companies are all about what makes money, so it makes sense that if an individual or group can prove, with money, how successful their ideas are and can be, then they should take full advantage of it. More power to the people and all that.
The seduction guide at the center of this discussion was successfully funded well over its minimum limit. People (700-plus people) proved that they wanted it. But for something that supports ideas potentially harmful toward other people, even Kickstarter should draw the line.
Kickstarter itself is a company, and as such, it has a right to determine its own guidelines and policies. But just as there are laws that companies cannot discriminate based on such issues as gender, disabilities or race, there’s an unspoken rule that they certainly shouldn’t support more tasteless and offensive issues like, of course, sexual assault.