Who's Ben Garrison?
June 3, 2015 6:08 PM   Subscribe

Ben Garrison is the most trolled cartoonist in the world. His trolls love him so much, they recreated him in their own image. [via]
posted by brundlefly (56 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
That's a pretty crazy story.
posted by ph00dz at 6:25 PM on June 3, 2015


I... dunno? Simplistic, conspiracy-minded, self-declared "libertarian" cartoonist finds himself vilified by simplistic, even more conspiracy-minded, self-declared "more libertarian than thou because FREE SPEECH" jackholes?

It feels like turtles all the way down, to be honest.
posted by Shepherd at 6:29 PM on June 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


Man, people suck.
posted by Songdog at 6:33 PM on June 3, 2015


Doesn't seem really tenable to make complex and effective political cartoons, tho
posted by curuinor at 6:34 PM on June 3, 2015


Terrifying
posted by bq at 6:35 PM on June 3, 2015


And they chose to make this human interest news story as a cartoon. Is it just me or is that becoming a thing now? Maybe it's part of the way traditional news outlets are shrinking and giving up coverage of stories like this.
posted by immlass at 6:40 PM on June 3, 2015


Well at least it's not a fucking infographic.
posted by Behemoth at 6:41 PM on June 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


I just can't help thinking about how much worse this would've been if he'd been a woman. I've been watching #GamerGate pretty closely for months and I'm just like, shit, they really don't bring out the big guns for libertarian white men, do they? Not that all of this isn't awful enough on its own, I just wish that there was a bat's chance in hell that the tactics he used to fight back would work for any of these people's less privileged targets.
posted by NoraReed at 6:46 PM on June 3, 2015 [16 favorites]


And they chose to make this human interest news story as a cartoon. Is it just me or is that becoming a thing now? Maybe it's part of the way traditional news outlets are shrinking and giving up coverage of stories like this.

I think it has more to do with the hegemony of geek culture and comics being the de facto literature of the day. That is to say, a whole big bunch of folks are more apt to look at a comic than they are to read a column of text.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:46 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


BEN GARRISON? THAT'S THE GUY WHO HATES REMOTE CONTROL CAR ENTHUSIASM!
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:48 PM on June 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


As soon as I saw Garrison's actual cartoon with the "global elite bankers" represented by the all-seeing eye, it was obvious that anti-Semites would turn it into a new meme template. I'm sure that he's being honest about not agreeing with the "Jews control the world" conspiracy theory, but unfortunately for him, the symbols and language he chose to use against the Federal Reserve are already closely tied to that conspiracy.

It reminds me of how in Foucault's Pengulum, when the protagonists are inventing theory own all-encompassing conspiracy theory in order to sell more books, they inevitably bring in Hitler and Nazi occultism and the hollow Earth theory. Once you go down that path, the Nazis are unavoidable.
posted by Rangi at 6:48 PM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


And they chose to make this human interest news story as a cartoon. Is it just me or is that becoming a thing now? Maybe it's part of the way traditional news outlets are shrinking and giving up coverage of stories like this.

For a story about a cartoonist, which would need a lot of illustrations anyway to show his comics and the troll versions, an entirely cartoon format makes sense.
posted by Rangi at 6:49 PM on June 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


And they chose to make this human interest news story as a cartoon. Is it just me or is that becoming a thing now?

Well, it is a cartoonist writing about a cartoonist on a site about comics...
posted by Etrigan at 6:50 PM on June 3, 2015 [15 favorites]


It reminds me of how in Foucault's Pengulum...

Ahh, yes, the worldwide Antarctic conspiracy.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:55 PM on June 3, 2015 [19 favorites]


...Okay, Garrison's blog says that this comic is the original, non-troll version. "Bilderberg Illuminati"? Really? Maybe it's exaggerated (after all, Clinton is getting instructions from an alien spaceship), but still, it's no surprise that the troll comics blend so well with the real ones.
posted by Rangi at 6:57 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've never heard of Ben Garrison or his situation before now, so if it helps there's at least one new person who doesn't think he's a nazi.

Man, there's something to be said here about Google's pagerank, our modern culture that "others" people for unacceptable beliefs, 4chan and the Scarlet Letter, but I'm too busy right now to think it through.
posted by Kevin Street at 6:59 PM on June 3, 2015


Well at least it's not a fucking infographic.

Or a listicle.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:02 PM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


As soon as I saw Garrison's actual cartoon with the "global elite bankers" represented by the all-seeing eye, it was obvious that anti-Semites would turn it into a new meme template.

Hell, I saw it and thought, "damn, that guy is signalling some pretty toxic anti-Semitism" and I just couldn't decide if it was intentional or not. This was before reading where the trolls went with it. So, I certainly don't want to blame the victim, and I definitely don't think he deserved this, kooky political views or no, but if you use a dog whistle/symbol/meme that is widely embraced by bigots, you can't be too surprised if bigots run with it.
posted by lunasol at 7:06 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wait, are you saying that straight-up Illuminati stuff is objectively anti-Semitic? So, the Illuminati game, and Robert Anton Wilson? What about the Gnomes of Zurich? The eye in the pyramid?

I'm a pretty big Jewy Jew and I hope I have a well-developed Anti-Semitism-sensitive sense of smell (my nose is so big it just has to be, amirite?) and I never heard this take. I mean, there really exist global elite financiers.

Anyway, as somebody who doesn't have half his family because of Hitler's camps, the trolls in that story made me pretty upset, whereas I thought Garrison's cartoon was just wrongheaded.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 7:39 PM on June 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


seems anti-Freemasons as much as anything
posted by thelonius at 7:48 PM on June 3, 2015


Most-trolled cartoonist? Dude has nothing on Chris-Chan.
And this is not a good contest for either of them, honestly
posted by Spatch at 7:58 PM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I find myself in the odd position of simultaneous sympathy and eye-rolling.
posted by solarion at 8:00 PM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Global Elite Bankers" is a code-word for "Jews" amongst the conspiracy-minded, yes. The same conspiracy theories which were once openly promulgated about the Elders of Zion or whatever, now have been cut-and-pasted to be about "Banksters."

It is completely believable that he wasn't aware of this -- that he had learned all these conspiracy theories from people who used those dog whistles and didn't even realize what they were. The dogwhistles are so popular that a lot of people think they are actually silent whistles that don't make any sound when you blow them.

He probably didn't know the significance of the "Elite Banker Conspiracy" dogwhistle.

But he blew the hell out of that whistle, and guess who showed up?
posted by edheil at 8:13 PM on June 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


So granting he's not anti-semitic nor racist, are we to understand that if President Hillary Clinton takes up owlkeeping in the White House his political ideology will have been vindicated and alien Bilderbergers will undoubtedly be running the show? I has a confuse.
posted by riverlife at 8:15 PM on June 3, 2015


OK. Some background.

The Federal Reserve is the United States' Central Bank. Because Wall Street, even in the middle of a deep financial crisis at the end of the Gilded Age, couldn't convince itself it needed a regulatory and lending institution, they moved heaven and earth to defang it. They failed, but they did manage to make it very confusing.

- It's not one Federal Reserve Bank. It's twelve regional and independent Federal Reserve Banks, each serving a separate part of the nation. Back before WWI. So, yeah, the Northeast and industrial Midwest has almost all of them, the South and Texas two, and the entirety of the West Coat and Hawaii one.

- They don't always get along or agree on policy, nor get along or agree with the Board of Governors in DC, or the BOG's head, the Chairperson.

- The Chairperson has what seems to be very little power. They appoint the heads of the various independent Feds. Yet, the Chairperson seems to wield immense influence, even in the face of intransigent opposition.

- The same power that the Chairperson has over the Feds, the Executive, and to a lesser degree, the Senate, has over the Chair of the Fed.

- Obama appointed Janet Yellen. She's a hard core "Full employment and wage growth" Fed fundamentalist. The Fed has two missions - control inflation and reduce unemployment. Greenspan was all about mollycoddling Wallstreet, total supply-sider. He got us into this mess. Twice. Bernanke was all about avoiding the Decline and Fall of Rome, managing disasters and a hostile legislative branch, taking it on the chin from both Barney Frank and Ron Paul. If both Occupy and Objectivists are protesting you on opposite street corners (I was there, I saw it), you're probably doing something right, if mediocre.

Yellen is all about Main Street. She's been two-fisted in fighting back interest increases, because 1) there is no inflation, stuff costs more because commodities are out of whack due to "external realities" (climate change and oil) and 2) It's just another incentive for the ultra-wealthy to sit on their savings rather than re-invest in human endeavor. She has her job because Obama is President, and we had a Democratic senate, and she's also really really really good at her job.

- But it's a very deliberative body in the aggregate, and by design. The President and Senate don't have that much sway, the Feds have a huge amount of autonomy, and do not rely on taxes for funding. They pay us.

Let me restate that. The Federal Reserve System invests in American Finance... and takes a profit that is paid back to the people in the form of cold hard cash paid into the treasury of the Federal Government of the United States of America. All that money Obama was snow-shoveling at the banks in the cartoon? Now all paid back. With interest. Compounded. A few aircraft carrier-group's worth of sweet, sweet profit.

Some people have a problem with this.

For one, it's hard to distill this all down into simple talking points. Libertarians and Conservatives have cornered the hell out of that market, and they do this by lying. A deliberative body who publishes metric craptons of highly technical research and elaborately reasoned policy positions can seem a bit cryptic compared to the soundbites we're all used to.

For another, the notion of Government interfering with private commerce is an affront to God and Religion in the eyes of no-kidding Libertarians.

For a third, the conservatives and Libertarians are lousy with white supremacists, and since they bring money and votes, they're not kicked out. The race-warriors use this as an opportunity to recruit.

Honest people who are concerned and confused about a concerning and confusing part of the government wind up either in cahoots with them... or being made to be in cahoots. Creepy and non-consensual is the Libertarian modus operandi in this day and age. It gets them a lot of votes, money and attention.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:16 PM on June 3, 2015 [60 favorites]


(Sorry, The South has two, Richmond and Atlanta - Texas has one in Dallas.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:25 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you do an image search for Ben Garrison on Google or Bing or anywhere else, the Nazi edits come up before his original work. Even the photos of him that come up have swastikas edited in.

That comic doesn't even get into how far 4chan is taking this. Like, a bunch of trolls sent tweets to a TV station livestreaming the Baltimore riots. The anchor was like, "A lot of people are tweeting us about someone called Ben Garrison. 'I'm watching the stream and horrified. Praying for people of Baltimore. Hopefully we can get Ben Garrison on scene to fix this!' Who's Ben Garrison?" Then a producer, or someone like that, looked him up and answered back, "He's a Neo-Nazi cartoonist."

I wouldn't be surprised if they eventually drives the poor man to suicide.
posted by riruro at 8:47 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I know he's got awful politics, but I can't get behind the idea that he invited this. There was an intentional effort to harm him by a bunch of horrible people on the internet.
posted by teponaztli at 9:04 PM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


He didn't invite it, but he did the equivalent of drawing a bunch of monkeys sitting in the White House; and he's all surprised that someone drew an arrow and labelled one "OBAMA". Racists are notorious for ripping off other people's artwork - I think we recently had a (deleted?) FPP about the hook-nosed Jew motif - of course they're going to appropriate some conspiracy-theory bullshit about banks and Illuminati and all that.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:13 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm getting kind of tired of "of course." Really? Of COURSE they did this?
posted by easter queen at 9:23 PM on June 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


This is definitely complex. The cartoon in the Nib captures that. Of course.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:26 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


In conclusion, anti-Semitic dogwhistles are a land of contrasts
posted by NoraReed at 9:45 PM on June 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't want to google him (after reading all that!) but is that the cartoonist who draws himself in the corner saying some snide comment about the subject matter of his cartoon? Or am I thinking of some other libertarian/right wing/insufferable jerk cartoonist?
posted by yhbc at 9:47 PM on June 3, 2015


Seemingly unrelated but also semi-relevent are the "changes" The Nib and Medium are going through (which should be it's own FPP). As an only slightly independent part of Medium Corporation, The Nib under editor Matt Bors was paying for comics (unheard of online!), longform and shortform (several previously posted here), and featuring weekly contributions by known cartoonist entities, from webcomickers like R.Stevens, political cartoonists like Jen Sorenson, New Yorker cartoonists like Emily Flake and alt-cartooninsts like Shannon Wheeler. A great line-up, but just last week, among a bunch of "realignment" in the Medium website, the regulars got kicked out and what we have left for the moment is Matt Bors' own political cartoons, and some longform pieces like this one and last week's "Longstreet Farm", comparing family farms and factory farms. Maybe the new rarity will make every Nib comic more special, or maybe just seem that way.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:52 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't want to google him (after reading all that!) but is that the cartoonist who draws himself in the corner saying some snide comment about the subject matter of his cartoon? Or am I thinking of some other libertarian/right wing/insufferable jerk cartoonist?

He's based on real cartoonists, but I think by this point Kelly of The Onion is more well known than any of the people he's mocking, so that's prolly who you're thinking of.
posted by NoraReed at 9:55 PM on June 3, 2015


That is exactly who I was thinking of. Thank you.

It is turtles all the way down, isn't it? The satiric version of the overbearing reactionary cartoonist is better known than the overbearing reactionary cartoonists he is satirizing.
posted by yhbc at 10:00 PM on June 3, 2015


Oh how I loathe the 21st century.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:12 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wait, are you saying that straight-up Illuminati stuff is objectively anti-Semitic? So, the Illuminati game, and Robert Anton Wilson? What about the Gnomes of Zurich? The eye in the pyramid?

I'm a pretty big Jewy Jew and I hope I have a well-developed Anti-Semitism-sensitive sense of smell (my nose is so big it just has to be, amirite?) and I never heard this take. I mean, there really exist global elite financiers.


I thought they tended to go together; at least, if I heard someone seriously concerned about the Illuminati or the Freemasons or any top-down cabal of financiers controlling the world, I'd expect them to believe that "the Jews" (or at least Israeli Jews, if they're a left-wing nut instead of right-wing) have a hand in it.

Robert Anton Wilson and the Illuminati card game aren't serious conspiracy theorists, though, right? After all, Illuminatus! references everything from the Freemasons to Ayn Rand to Cthulhu. (I started reading it a while ago, but haven't gotten far into it.)

Oh how I loathe the 21st century.

In the 20th century you wouldn't have to rely on trolls to make the racist cartoons.
posted by Rangi at 10:37 PM on June 3, 2015


That "No, I think almost all are serious" remark made me think of my previous thoughts about a possible internet version of the 'New Sincerity'. Here's how I think it works (amateur psychology alert):

Before the internet, people went around with thoughts, interests and desires that they had to repress in order to function in society. If they didn't, they could become infamous in their area and while there is strength in numbers, they probably wouldn't be able to find people in their area with the same unusual thoughts.

Then the internet happened. In time, it established itself as a second world, one that solved the problems described above with its anonymity and connectivity, respectively. People could live double lives. But the norms of 'meatspace' society popped up online when anything got too weird. The furries, for example, tried to 'break out', with people basing their entire online identities around the fandom and even trying to break out into the real world. The furry fandom still bears a massive stigma because of this. Because of the risk of being called out on weird behavior, the weirder behaviors of the internet kept to themselves (at least when they were self-admittedly genuine), and ironic behavior ran rampant.

The ironic behavior, as it turns out, may have been a form of 'holding back' - a lie, told even to oneself, that one is not REALLY into that stuff. But in time, people started realizing that EVERYONE'S got strange thoughts, and that the internet enables indulgence in these thoughts, and that all this ironic crap is really just a form of denial. And thus began the internet's New Sincerity.
posted by BiggerJ at 10:53 PM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm getting kind of tired of "of course." Really? Of COURSE they did this?

Well ... I kind of assume by this point that people are horrible.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:29 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Of course they're horrible. OF COURSE.

but maybe...
posted by ostranenie at 5:11 AM on June 4, 2015


When Garrison says that the Fed prints up money and loans it to the Government and the populace has to pay it back with interest, I need some clarification: aren't interest rates at 0% right now? So, the paying back with interest is really not an issue right now, right? Or am I misunderstanding?
posted by NoMich at 5:18 AM on June 4, 2015


Also, he calls the Federal Reserve a private organization. Is it?
posted by NoMich at 5:21 AM on June 4, 2015


The trolls have really done their work. A Google Images search on only his name as a text string comes up with some very, uh, aggressive National Socialist content [TW: National Socialist content and all that implies - racism, antisemitism, violence].
posted by theorique at 6:01 AM on June 4, 2015


Also, he calls the Federal Reserve a private organization. Is it?

Kinda. Each regional Federal Reserve Bank is not a direct government entity, though they are highly regulated and work very closely with the executive branch and congress via the Board of Governors and the FOMC. They're "privately owned" as in they own themselves via the commercial banks they lend to, rather than the government. It's explicitly and legally not a proprietary "ownership" - the private financial institutions who "own" their local fed have no say in their operation, and a large stake in its success. This is to ensure it's a deliberative rather than partisan organization, and for local business to take an interest in its viability - and also Wall Street hoped it would result in a central bank that was too fractured to interfere in nationwide business. Didn't tun out that way. The Feds do an amazing job of working together and with the BOG, going so far as to "outsource" specialties to each other - Kansas City does deep economics research, for instance, and Boston does a lot of heavy lifting for banking regulations and compliance.

I mean, it's clearly not a magic bullet against financial catastrophe, it can do a lot more to focus on quality of life for average Americans, it should be doing a much better job applying its regulations to large financial entities, but it sure helps smooth out some minor bumps that could result in big spills and keeps Depression 2.0 from happening. It's mostly routine behind the scenes stuff - clearing checks, collecting and disbursing cash, auditing lending banks, etc - some guidance in the form of rate adjustment and regulation to guide the economy a bit (not as much as you'd think), and a very powerful backstop for when the economy fails.

It's this last point that gets lost in the noise. At the end of the day, it's the Bank of Last Resort. We really need it there for the next Republican Bubble, as it saved our ass when 30 years of Supply Side misrule exploded in our face.

But it's complicated, and impenetrable and mysterious to those who aren't immersed in the financial industry, which causes a lot of the distrust surrounding it. The Feds usually have an educational mission that they take seriously, but it's mostly aimed at explaining how the economy and finance and money are related to highschoolers on a field trip rather than justifying their own existence.

I'm probably getting a lot of this wrong, as I'm a layman, and it's really damn complicated (by design).
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:11 AM on June 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm getting kind of tired of "of course." Really? Of COURSE they did this?

We live in a shitty world with some shitty people who will do some shitty things. So yeah, "of course". If you're getting tired of hearing that you're on the wrong planet.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:36 AM on June 4, 2015


Also, holy shit I knew reddit was a sewer but there's actually a subreddit called r/gasthekikes.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:41 AM on June 4, 2015


If you're getting tired of hearing that you're on the wrong planet.

This is so... not of course. This is actually quite weird. Of course bad things happen, but I'm really not sure "of course!" is the response to new and weirder kinds of crowdsourced internet-enabled abuse.
posted by easter queen at 10:57 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


They are also doing it to Josh Bornstein, apparently a fairly well known liberal Australian attorney. They even posted vicious pro Palestinian genocide articles in his name too the Times of Israel.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2015


Plus, it's just annoying victim blaming-- "of course" his wallet was stolen, he was in a bad part of town! "Of course" she got catcalled-- men are animals! Etc.
posted by easter queen at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm probably getting a lot of this wrong, as I'm a layman, and it's really damn complicated (by design).

I think that's the best description of the Fed I've ever read.
posted by ogooglebar at 12:20 PM on June 4, 2015


"of course" his wallet was stolen, he was in a bad part of town! "Of course" she got catcalled-- men are animals!

The cases aren't comparable. He's a conspiracy theorist who is familiar with and uses the opaque symbolism of other conspiracy theorists. His drawings reflect classic populist cartoons (e.g.) that were implicitly or explicitly racist and anti-Semitic. The labels in his drawings - and boy does he label things! - make accusations about real people, including ones (e.g., "banksters") that are well-known anti-Semitic dog whistles. It is impossible that he doesn't know this, because his drawings are firmly within this genre of populist cartooning.

Initially he complained that some very small changes made his drawings seem overtly anti-Semitic. I'm going to use "of course" again - of course small changes made his drawings seem overtly anti-Semitic, because that's the graphic tradition he has drawn from. He persisted in his complaints - he is apparently nothing if not persistent - and amused the trolls at reddit or whatever into making this an activity of theirs. Yes, well, that sucks. They're reportedly lying about him, which is wrong, but that's about as far as my outrage goes.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:07 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's a gallery (via Do Not Link) that purports to show similarities between Garrison's work and the racist and pseudonymous A Wyatt Mann's. We now know the identity of A Wyatt Mann and it definitely wasn't Garrison, but look at the similarity of the symbols - a hovering Jew with dollar bills for wings saps the blood of a common man; a hovering White House with dollar bills for wings saps the blood of a common man; it's all part of the same graphical tradition.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:27 PM on June 4, 2015


Are you saying that Garrison is plagiarising/deriving from A Wyatt Mann, or that they are both very unoriginal, derivative cartoonists?

Because, the latter, definitely, but I'm not seeing a huge commonality compared to other editorial cartoons. Feeding a big mouth? Riding a train?
posted by Elysum at 2:11 PM on June 6, 2015


Plus I went through all this trouble to plant this secret code

Even pointed out I don't get it. Clever kills?
posted by Ogre Lawless at 9:48 AM on June 7, 2015


Joe in Australia:

It is impossible that he doesn't know this, because his drawings are firmly within this genre of populist cartooning.

Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. And to add to it: never, ever, EVER underestimate the limits of human ignorance.
posted by BiggerJ at 5:57 AM on June 10, 2015


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