It has been over five years since I began penning anti-Federal Reserve cartoons in my spare time. I started drawing them in 2009 and almost immediately I was attacked by Internet trolls. At first I was bewildered and perplexed. I knew nothing about trolling or why they would do such a thing. Many of my friends and family thought I should simply ignore them.
That works in some cases, but when trolling ramps up to libel and criminal harassment...well, that can be difficult to ignore. Just ask Kathy Sierra when she started dealing with trolls. The ringleader was a young man named 'Weev' who mercilessly hounded her so much that she decided to drop off the Internet completely. You can read her story in her own words here:
Her story was very familiar to me and it DOES seem like the trolls always win. But then, one of them pushed things too far and he was arrested. I was able to obtain justice--even if indirectly. Joshua Goldberg began trolling at the age of 12 and he kept ramping up his activities until he crossed the line--he was promoting murder for laughs. For some reason the young man had a fascination with Australia and many of his aliases were Australian. This even threw off a cyber investigator who tried to help me by tracking down the identities of the trolls.
I can boil the trolling down to three main attackers. One of them is now in jail. It doesn't take a lot of trolls to ruin one's reputation and a few can wreak a lot of damage. My commercial art business has been hurt. I had to leave my art gallery because trolls began attacking the owner. Lawyers were not interested in my case due to the difficulty of prosecuting online libel. Just because justice can't be had, the trolls think what they're doing is 'right' and 'free.' Nope--it's still criminal to change my work into anti-Semitism and racism and then claim I drew them while spreading them around the Web. Copyrights do have meaning and my work is owned by me. It's satire, you say? Wrong. Satire would be to draw your OWN cartoons in my style to mock my work.
One of the lawyers suggested I should go on a PR campaign and tell my story. I've done that. I even wrote a book. I gave away more copies than I have sold. I have also been trying to stay afloat by selling originals of my cartoons. I've sold them all so far (with special thanks to one collector who loves them--you know who you are!)
Drawing political cartoons without editorial constraints is a good example of engaging in free speech. I drew cartoons that mainstream media cartoonists wouldn't draw. I had to be shut up. Whether or not the trolling was first instigated by government provocateurs or by chuckleheads doesn't matter. The only way to get out of this mess is to keep drawing them until my REAL cartoons begin to drown out the ones defaced by trolls. It would be great if I could draw them full time, but that requires some sort of support. It's why I signed up for Patreon. If only a few thousand supporters would pledge $1 a month, I could draw cartoons full time. That's a dream, but I had to try.
To my first three supporters, my hearty thanks and I will do my best to make it worthwhile.
Meanwhile, here is an info graphic that shows my three main tormentors and how they are all interconnected. When it comes to Internet trolls, it's a small world.