It stinks getting ripped off. We’ve all been there. You pay for a good or service, but rather than getting what you were expecting, you either get something far below your expectations or, even worse, you get nothing at all. Sadly, because we live in a world where so many are willing to put profits before people, cutting corners and misleading advertising are all too common. However, we now live in a world where it’s easier to share information, so it is relatively simple to take to social media or blogs and shame a person or company that has stolen your hard-earned cash by defrauding you, decrying their manipulative ways and shameless opportunism.
This has been largely been the reaction to the news that John Campbell, the artist behind the darkly comedic Sad Pictures for Children comic, has decided to burn a quarter of the books he promised to donors on Kickstarter, a crowd-sourcing Web site that allows people to donate money toward an enterprise (in this case, the second hardcover collection of Campbell’s comic) in exchange for promised rewards. In his announcement on the Kickstarter Web site, a clearly troubled Campbell bemoans the intense pressure he feels around the economic management of the Kickstarter campaign as well as life in general. He states that “if you spend your life in a small room thinking, you deserve to live and breathe the same amount as someone who spends their life doing intense physical or mental labor, or who has money that ‘makes money.'” He claims that a good chunk of the money he earned through the donations ended up going toward providing books to the people who donated the most, and also notes that a lot of the money he has earned in the past has gone toward settling debts, including those stemming from student loans.
Most of the responses I have read out there accuses Campbell of being a “ballsy” jerk who is ungrateful to his fans and donors. A few admit that he appears to be “in a bad place,” but then dismiss his criticisms of capitalism as naive and unrealistic. “You want someone to pay for you to sit around? Me too, John, me too!” Campbell’s “crime” of abandoning his end of the bargain outweighs the reasoning or even the emotion that went into it, despite how naked that reasoning is, how blatant the emotion is. And while it may well be true that Campbell is lying and that his post was just an excuse for him to hold on to money he claims he doesn’t have, I don’t think that is very likely. He’s either a soulless spawn of Satan faking depression or a very troubled artist who is sick and tired of the rat race and “just getting by,” constantly trying to please others and ignoring his own needs and desires. Considering the obvious consequences of his actions in terms of ever getting donations again, it’s hard to see how the former presumption has any support.
It bothers me that there seems to be more shock and concern over the integrity of the Kickstarter system than there seems to be for John Campbell the human being. If you like someone’s art enough to pay them for it, I would assume what you really value is the artist and the creative juices he or she possesses, not just the art for it’s own sake. In other words, you would express hope that the person espousing a disconnect from the world and its emphasis on material gains and wage labor as “real work” finds someway to cope and not be so overwhelmed by feelings of alienation or isolation. Instead, everyone writes off Campbell as a “ballsy” con artist or a sheltered utopian. iT wouldn’t surprise me at all if Campbell sinks even deeper into depression because, after pouring his heart out about how he feels, the general consensus is “Stop crying, baby, and follow the rules of capitalism!” rather than any interest in his welfare as a person. It only goes to show that the commodity is assigned more value than the person producing it.