comic header

Things hap­pen fast on social media. This week­end at The Calgary Expo in Alberta, Canada a col­lec­tive known as the Honey Badger Brigade were accused of wrong-doing by peo­ple on social media and then very quick­ly removed and banned from the event. There has been a lot of noise, fury and com­pet­ing sto­ries on this issue, so I find it best to detail all the infor­ma­tion I have been able to gath­er so far.

First of all the Facts: What happened and in what order?

The Honey Badge Brigade raised almost $10,000 in crowd­fund­ing to bring some of their mem­bers, includ­ing comic artist Alison Tieman, and their mer­chan­dise to Calgary Expo 2015. Their stat­ed goal was done open­ly: pro­mote free­dom of expres­sion with­in gam­ing.

On Friday, some con­ven­tion atten­dees and a num­ber of peo­ple not attend­ing the con­ven­tion took to social media to remark on the “GamerGate booth” they were see­ing. This is where the mis­in­for­ma­tion start­ed, as they were the Honey Badgers who hap­pened to be sell­ing mer­chan­dise, some of which includ­ed: mer­chan­dise bar­ing GamerGate logos and the mas­cot Vivian James.

Accusations that they had dis­rupt­ed a Women in Gaming pan­el was lev­eled by some atten­dees.

There was a furor raised by peo­ple on social media, notably by Maya Kramer (for­mer­ly of Silverstring media), that gar­nered a reply from Calgary Expo that the booth was not a GamerGate booth and that they were “Looking into it.”

#ClargaryExpo explodes as a hash­tag, with peo­ple tweet­ing sup­port for the Honey Badgers as well as oth­ers con­demn­ing the “GamerGate Booth.” Confusion about what was actu­al­ly going on start­ed run­ning ram­pant.

side comic 0.5Within a short peri­od of time, Rachel Edwards, a Honey Badger mem­ber on the con­ven­tion floor, con­firms that the booth is being tak­en down and they are being removed from the con­ven­tion. This is con­firmed by oth­er con­ven­tion atten­dees.

Calgary Expo posts and then lat­er deletes a tweet link­ing to a Mary Sue arti­cle, pur­port­ing the arti­cle to be the expla­na­tion for why The Honey Badgers were kicked from the con­ven­tion, even­tu­al­ly putting out an offi­cial state­ment lat­er. It is worth not­ing The Mary Sue is affil­i­at­ed with the event.

A Voice for Men alleged that not only had the booth and atten­dees been removed, but mem­bers had been issued a life-time ban from all events owned by the event orga­niz­ers, which includes female comics’ artist and cre­ator Alison Tieman. The Honey Badgers also released the audio of the “con­fronta­tion” at the pan­el and a raw unedit­ed ver­sion of the Women in Games pan­el.

Competing Statements

Here is the only offi­cial state­ment from Calgary Expo

Calgary insert 1

For con­trast we have the Honey Badgers Statement in full:

Early this morn­ing, Fan Expo Canada banned Honey Badger Brigade (HBB) from the Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo (CalEx). Security staff approached the HBB booth, ordered us to leave, and refused to state the rea­son why unless Alison Tieman agreed to speak to them away from the oth­er mem­bers of the group, with­out record­ing. They informed Alison that they had received com­plaints on social media, includ­ing 25 alle­ga­tions of harass­ment. No evi­dence was pre­sent­ed, no request was made for infor­ma­tion from HBB, and no speci­fic inci­dent was cit­ed until fur­ther ques­tions were asked of secu­ri­ty.

Upon fur­ther ques­tion­ing, secu­ri­ty men­tioned the Women in Comics pan­el dis­cus­sion from the pre­vi­ous day, where Alison was given per­mis­sion to speak. Alison spoke briefly in rela­tion to a top­ic brought up by the pan­elists. Accusers, how­ev­er, claimed that Alison derailed the con­ver­sa­tion. Alison and myself were in atten­dance, and you can lis­ten to Alison’s state­ment in the pan­el here on YouTube. You can hear Alison, myself and indeed the entire pan­el in the full dis­cus­sion record.

As you will hear, there was no harass­ment. Expo staff and mob rule, in their cru­sade for end­ing harass­ment again­st wom­en, harassed the Honey Badgers despite hav­ing no evi­dence of any pol­i­cy vio­la­tion. To those unfa­mil­iar, HBB was found­ed by three wom­en and has a high­ly diverse staff of vol­un­teers, cre­ators and lovers of free expres­sion. Alison Tieman, a wom­an who spent 7 years writ­ing graph­ic nov­els and fight­ing cen­sor­ship, was cen­sored by oth­er wom­en for speak­ing her mind, and advo­cat­ing equal com­pas­sion for men, and true strength in char­ac­ter for wom­en.

We ask all involved to ques­tion what it means to provide an open forum, and to exam­ine how CalEx treats it’s patrons and exhibitors. Do they provide a safe space from harass­ment, or a safe space for the peo­ple who want to define what harass­ment means?

Please send press inquiries to for more infor­ma­tion as the sto­ry devel­ops. Also be sure to fol­low us on Twitter.

Nowhere in the Calgary state­ment does it cite a rule The Honey Badgers broke, or even men­tions a speci­fic case of wrong­do­ing they are accused of. This is a very weak and gen­er­al­ized state­ment and does not, in my mind, hold up as the basis for such harsh and quick action. Someone on Twitter summed it up best: “If that is going to stand as your offi­cial expla­na­tion, it is com­plete­ly inad­e­quate – and not even coher­ent”

Hitting the Presses

Immediate Media cov­er­age fol­lowed. Headlines like “GamerGate Booth Kicked Out Of Canadian Comic Expo” abound­ed with many pub­li­ca­tions par­rot­ing The Mary Sue’s line of a “plan of infil­tra­tion,” prais­ing the expo for expelling the Badgers. Kotaku using the head­line “GamerGate Booth” is par­tic­u­lar­ly disin­gen­u­ous, as that was one of the myths even the Expo itself tried to dis­pel — once again serv­ing as an exam­ple of over­sim­pli­fied and dis­hon­est click­bait. The word “infil­tra­tion” implies that the con­ven­tion was closed off to the­se view­points from the start. Why would the “Straight White Patriarchy” that holds all the pow­er, accord­ing to their inter­nal log­ic, have to “infil­trate” any­thing? Their lies expose their in-build big­otry: that some­one who sup­ports GamerGate should not and would not be allowed to attend an expo. Once again, very lit­tle right of reply is given and once again judge­ment is rushed to with­in hours if not min­utes in the race to be first, but not the race to be accu­rate.

Where Does This Leave the Convention Circuit?

side comic 0.5What it comes down to is this: You can’t con­trol who is and isn’t in a fan­dom. When you have comic artists threat­en­ing to boy­cott any con­ven­tion that has true equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion then you have a prob­lem. When you have mobs of peo­ple on social media dic­tat­ing who can and can’t stay in the con­ven­tion hall then you have a prob­lem. Gaming and Comic con­ven­tions are not the polit­i­cal play­things of the orga­niz­ers, or for a hand­ful of big names. They belong to the com­mu­ni­ty, to the fans. If there is suf­fi­cient eco­nom­ic demand for The Honey Badgers and they keep with­in the rules of the con­ven­tion then there is no rea­son to remove them beyond sheer ide­o­log­i­cal big­otry. From the evi­dence in front of me and from pri­ma­ry sources, includ­ing a record­ing of the entire Women in Comics pan­el, I think I can safe­ly draw this con­clu­sion:  Calgary Expo eject­ed the Honey Badger Brigade under pres­sure from out­spo­ken indi­vid­u­als on social media and made up a rea­son for their removal after the fact. The seem­ing lock-step with The Mary Sue and lat­er dele­tion of their tweet shows their alleged rea­sons shift­ing as things unfold. By the time they had come up with their, frankly, emp­ty state­ment, The Honey Badgers had already been eject­ed from the con­ven­tion hall with no dis­cus­sion or oppor­tu­ni­ty to defend them­selves. They got rail­road­ed, this is a farce pred­i­cat­ed on, at best, dis­hon­est bend­ing of con­ven­tion polices and, at worst, flat-out mali­cious lies. Through the series of events that took place, I see no way to jus­ti­fy their removal and ban­ning.

I had feared things would pro­gress like this since last year, but to actu­al­ly see a group of “The wrong type of wom­en” be thrown out of a con­ven­tion on the whims of a twit­ter mob, most of whom were not attend­ing the con­ven­tion, is dis­tress­ing. I think the word I am look­ing for is “Injustice.” Not very many things make me angry, but the cow­ards and bul­lies run­ning Calgary Expo make me angry now because they have know­ing­ly car­ried out an injus­tice for their own polit­i­cal expe­di­en­cy.

This is a sig­nal that if you do not pass an ide­o­log­i­cal puri­ty test then you are not allowed an equal plat­form. This is a real world exam­ple of expo orga­niz­ers and social media mobs shout­ing “GO HOME GAMER GIRL!!”  to The Honey Badgers, most of whom are female. This mir­rors ear­lier events where two sep­a­rate Vivian James cos­play­ers were harassed, threat­ened and then abused at Magfest 2015, with one vic­tim being a staff mem­ber of the even who went on to write a detailed account of the inci­dents. It also mir­rors the attempts to ban actor Adam Baldwin from Supernova Expo in Australia.

Unsafe Safe Spaces, Exclusionary Inclusion Policies. 

This is the polar­iza­tion and politi­ciza­tion of the con­ven­tion cir­cuit.  This is cre­at­ing an envi­ron­ment that is unwel­com­ing and the oppo­site of “safe”; where objec­tions from peo­ple with the right con­nec­tions can have you eject­ed and banned at any point arbi­trar­i­ly. The Honey Badgers are open­ly sup­port­ive of GamerGate. They’ve nev­er hid­den that fact. Once Calgary had approved them, it was already too late. Now we have the worst of both worlds: you got the hopes up of the­se peo­ple, made them do a ton of work in cre­at­ing mer­chan­dise and then banned them once they had set up. This is pret­ty cru­el and could have been avoid­ed by either: hav­ing the most basic back­ground checks on hand if you real­ly do want to turn your con­ven­tion into a no-go zone for GamerGate sup­port­ers, or by hav­ing some human decen­cy and allow­ing them to con­tin­ue with their booth as long as no rules were bro­ken.

Calgary had a much tout­ed pro­gram called #ExpoEquality, where they claimed to be mak­ing a push towards inclu­sion, but as some have point­ed out, their treat­ment and ejec­tion of the Honey Badgers proves them false.

calgary insert 2

When a small group of peo­ple are allowed to impose their will and cre­ate mis­ery for those they have even a lit­tle pow­er over, what do you call that? I call it bul­ly­ing. I think this is a clear instance of a con­ven­tion roy­al­ly screw­ing the pooch and this will cre­ate both ani­mos­i­ty and a dan­ger­ous prece­dent for the next time some­one objects to… well any­one at a con­ven­tion. Safe space cul­ture is fun­da­men­tal­ly unsafe and pro­grams meant to encour­age inclu­sion are fun­da­men­tal­ly being used to cre­ate exclu­sion. Someone tweets about remov­ing peo­ple from the con­ven­tion and moments lat­er they were removed, accom­pa­nied by much cheer­ing and chest-beating from those who wish to police and lock down the con­ven­tion cir­cuit. This is not the sign of a healthy com­mu­ni­ty and not a sign of a com­mu­ni­ty that prac­tices any lev­el of polit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal plu­ral­i­ty. What Calgary Expo per­pe­trat­ed this Friday was far­ci­cal, its stu­pid­i­ty sec­ond only to its dis­hon­est­ly.  I want to leave you with one final thought. Remember the line about “Infiltration?” That was a line from a weary and sar­cas­tic joke being tak­en out of con­text and used as part of the main basis for their removal. This joke has a seri­ous mes­sage about how exclu­sion­ary the com­mu­ni­ty has become and now comes off almost as fore­shad­ow­ing. It reads:

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.

The cov­er­age of this farce con­ve­nient­ly left out the last part, and it makes it all the more poignant as the­se events have unfold­ed:

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 its own way… Just let­ting cre­ative com­mu­ni­ties cre­ate; con­sumers con­sume what they want; and gamers get down to the busi­ness of vidya with­out being judged.

I believe Videogames and Comics are won­der­ful too. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go and lie down for a while and con­sid­er what kind of com­mu­ni­ty would ban artists and fans for the crime of uphold­ing and pro­mot­ing the­se beliefs.

Note: This arti­cle has been edit­ed to fix a few gram­mat­i­cal errors. Also cor­rect­ed “The Honey Badgers also released the audio of the “con­fronta­tion” with secu­ri­ty…” as it was incor­rect. “The Honey Badgers also released the audio of the “con­fronta­tion” at the pan­el…” is the cor­rect­ed line.

Note 2: Alison Tieman has released a video respon­se which can be seen here:

Note 3(10:17pm EST 4÷18÷2015): We had erro­neous­ly said that the Calgary Expo was owned by Fan Expo Canada. We have edit­ed the line men­tion­ing them to reflect this. It now says “…mem­bers had been issued a life-time ban from all events owned by the event orga­niz­ers…”

Note 4(5:05pm EST 4÷20÷2015): This sto­ry just does not stop! On Sunday, a group of peo­ple that includ­ed The Honey Badger Brigade had the cops called on them by Calgary Expo secu­ri­ty. Their crime? They were hang­ing out at a park… We can’t make this up.

Note 5(4:15am EST 4÷25÷15): Calgary Expo has respond­ed to our request for more infor­ma­tion and to answer ques­tions with this reply:

Thank you very much for reach­ing out to us. We sin­cere­ly appre­ci­ate that you took the time to write. Your mes­sage has been received and will be reviewed by our orga­niz­ers. All infor­ma­tion was released last Friday regard­ing the sit­u­a­tion.  The group in ques­tion did not adhere to the Expo poli­cies and were asked to leave. The feed­back from our guests has always been an inte­gral part of cre­at­ing and con­tin­u­ing to build a great Calgary Expo. We take all of our guest feed­back seri­ous­ly, and this com­ment will be tak­en into con­sid­er­a­tion in the plan­ning of future Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expos.”

Meanwhile, The Honey Badger Brigade has released a state­ment on their web­site say­ing that they will have a “sig­nif­i­cant press release” lat­er today. The word we have is they have been able to obtain legal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, so it will be inter­est­ing to hear what comes out of this devel­op­ment. We will keep you post­ed! SweeneyCultureEditorialCalgary Expo,Conventions,Culture,Editorial,Honey Badger BrigadeThings hap­pen fast on social media. This week­end at The Calgary Expo in Alberta, Canada a col­lec­tive known as the Honey Badger Brigade were accused of wrong-doing by peo­ple on social media and then very quick­ly removed and banned from the event. There has been a lot of noise, fury and com­pet­ing…
The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent below.
John Sweeney
John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in engi­neer­ing. He writes long-form edi­to­ri­al con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games media and inter­net cul­ture. He also does the occa­sion­al video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a week­ly column about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our inter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­port­er of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agen­da dri­ven media and sus­pi­cious of unac­cou­table author­i­ty but always hope­ful for change.