For the past several days, I've been seeing an obviously silly conspiracy theory rocket around the usual online places. It concerns Susan Wilson, whose nine-year-old daughter Mackenzie was challenged by her older brothers when she expressed an aspiration to make games, Mackenzie and her mom posted a Kickstarter to raise $800 for an RPG camp where she could hone her game-development skills.
And out came the trolls. One group was convinced that this was a scam by a "millionaire" (Wilson once attended a fundraiser where she was photographed with Warren Buffet); the other was convinced that this was a radical feminist man-hatin' exercise determined to raise funds by pitting little boys against little girls.
Both theories were silly on their face, but lots of credulous guys found something they liked in it -- specifically, evidence of a vast shadowy conspiracy of emasculating millionaire women who want to relegate men to the scrapheap of history -- and repeated it, and it refused to die. Worse, the campaign whipped up the kind of men who respond to their feelings of discomfort with death and rape threats. Keep it classy, guys.
Thankfully, CNet's Eric Mack took on the unenviable task of rebutting the rumors. And as he points out, the fundraiser has cleared $20K, and Wilson's going to use the excess money to fund girls-in-STEM causes. Victory.
Wilson also responded to other conclusions drawn by the trolls, dispelling the notion of the size of her bank account ("I don't have a million dollars in the bank, I'm not rolling in cash and I'm not a highly paid business woman. Frankly, I'm unemployed at this very moment!"); her status as a Warren Buffet buddy (it was a photo op from an awards ceremony); and those pricey shoes ( a splurge after a long-shot bet at the roulette wheel paid off years ago). She added:
"Kickstarter is about the power of the crowd and though you might not always like what the crowd says, you can't push the "It's not Fair" button when you disagree. Though I'm not in the 1% club, I do find it sad many think Kickstarter should only be used for the downtrodden and the poor because it has the power to extend far beyond. "
Wilson also took the bold move of outing the two people who made threats against her and her family, and she told me in an email that she is actively searching for a worthy cause to direct all the extra money that the crowdfunding campaign raises beyond the original modest goal.
"It's clear this campaign resonated for a reason that's much bigger than Mackenzie and ALL OF THE extra money should go to that bigger movement," Wilson writes. "I can't say I know what that is right now (it's been a whirlwind and certainly wasn't planned) but smart people are working on it with Brenda Romero (gamer in residence at University of California at Santa Cruz who's husband created Doom and Quake) being among my personal favorites."
Trolls take on 9-year-old girl's Kickstarter project...and lose