In the wake of the recent dismissal of fans discussing the allegations against Vic Mignogna by Anime News Network’s Editor-at-Large Mike Toole, some fans have taken issue with staff members of the long respected and popular anime news site due to their response to and handling of criticism regarding Toole’s behavior and the accusations against Mignogna.
Following Toole’s previous comments, where he described YouTube channels Lost Pause and Clownfish TV as Nazis, some fans took to the Anime News Network forums to express their displeasure with Toole’s behavior and words. These fans soon found that posts critical of Toole or ANN were being routinely deleted by forum moderators, by their own admission:
While this thread hasn’t blown up or required as much cleanup as the thread about the RWBY removal, I feel I need to give the same warning here that I did there. Whether you agree with this action by Funimation is up to you, but in this thread, you should not
– Victim blame
– Try to downplay sexually or physically inappropriate conduct by implying that since it’s not violent rape it doesn’t matter, or by referring to victims of it as “victims” in air quotes, or through any similar method really. Something bad does not become good because there are worse things\
– Flood this thread with your off topic conspiracy or complaints about Twitter
– Personally attack people
– Ignore moderator warnings to stop any of the above or other rule breaking conduct
-Mad_Scientist 5 February 2019
I had to remove some more posts who ignored this. I want to also make it clear that stopping such behavior in one thread and simply going into a different one to make the same posts is not ok. Several users are about to wind up on moderation for continuing to post the same things in every thread on Vic while ignoring our warnings.
-Psycho 101 6 February 2019
While posters generally had no issue with punitive action taken for the more inappropriate actions, such as victim blaming, personally attacking people, and trivializing any alleged damages to the alleged victims, others drew ire with the classification of certain topics as ‘conspiracy.’ Posts criticizing ANN for failing to report on the accusations sooner, criticizing the way in which Toole conducted himself on Twitter, or speculating that the report on Mignogna was done simply for clicks and money were among those chosen for deletion or editing by moderators.
Moderator Mad_Scientist would soon respond in a forum post to upset fans regarding their various issues. She began by clarifying Toole’s position at ANN and downplaying Toole’s Twitter accusations:
For starters, Mike Toole isn’t the owner of ANN. He’s one of several editors. He had nothing to do with this article. He made a single tweet commenting on two Youtube channels which both at least appeared to be of the “evil feminists are destroying anime, anime gate now!” variety, using language that some might find too harsh or hyperbolic, but which I find ironic given how often I’ve seen the term feminazi thrown around. Then a bunch of people started pestering him on Twitter, got really upset when he blocked them, and now this has led people to apparently dig up nearly decades old tweets referencing Vic to prove how apparently this is all a grand conspiracy by Mike to censor YouTube.
That’s it. That’s the conspiracy. A guy who works for ANN but didn’t write the Vic articles made a tweet some folks disliked.
In regards to the ‘tweets referencing Vic’, some fans have searched through Toole’s old tweets and found numerous references to Mignogna’s alleged misconduct, some dating back as far as 2011:
Reading #AWA feedback thread. It’s mostly dubious tales about how awful Vic Mignona is. Con clearly needs a “VIC MIGNONA IS AWFUL!!!” panel.
— Mike Toole (@MichaelToole) October 5, 2011
ANN thread is also awash in seedy rumors about Vic Mignona. Really, the whole thread is remarkably unpleasant and shameful. Blehh.
— Mike Toole (@MichaelToole) July 8, 2011
Said fans allege these tweets are evidence that Toole knew about the allegations against Mignogna but failed to act on them for years, much to the detriment of Mignogna’s alleged victims.
She would then go on to respond to the claims that they had failed to report on the accusations earlier by pointing to a forum post made by ANN Publisher & CEO, Christopher McDonald earlier this year wherein McDonald claimed responsibility for not reporting on the allegations sooner:
I’ll accept this criticism. Many of us at ANN have known about Vic’s behavior for over a decade. We never wrote about it. Rather than deciding not to write about it, it never even occurred to us to write about it. It took the #metoo movement for us to realize that the we, as journalists, have a responsibility to make people aware of what goes on in these situations.
In regards to the timeline for this, Jesse was not the catalyst. The article was almost finished when Jesse made her statement. Jesse was extremely brave to make her statement publicly and our journalists decided to add it. The catalyst for this was Dylan Keilman. We’ve been talking about this publicly on Twitter for 2 weeks.
[Author’s Note: McDonald is referring to the account of cosplayer Jessie Pridemore regarding Mignogna and the allegations against Dylan Keilman, aka Hazukari]
We know about a lot of other terrible people in the industry. We’ve known about them for years. The whisper network has kept some of our staff from going beyond locked doors with the wrong people. But that whisper network doesn’t reach the fans, the 14-year-olds that idolize people in the industry. Shame on us for never reporting it? Sure, I’ll agree with that statement. But better late than never. We can do something good now. We’re going to do our best to protect our readers and every anime fan or fresh-out-of-university professional from being harassed or worse. Unfortunately there are names that we can’t publish yet. People we know who have done bad things, but we don’t have enough proof. We don’t have the receipts. We don’t have the corroboration. Our staff is working on it, and when they get the information, we’re working with experts to make sure that when we go to press, we do it right. Someone else might beat us to it; I don’t care. I’m not interested in being first on this; I’m interested in doing it right.
Mad_Scientist would continue in her own words, clarifying some aspects of the ‘conspiracy theories’ centered around ANN, as well as labeling these posts as “disinformation”:
And yet, we keep on seeing these conspiracy theories show up. Oh, this is Mike Toole’s attempt to censor YouTubers, look at this one tweet he made. Oh, this is all a grudge of Jake and Zac’s, look at their Twitter. It’s weird, isn’t it, how people can somehow monitor Mike Toole’s twitter so closely they instantly know the moment he criticizes two anime YouTubers, but somehow miss the literal weeks worth of tweets from him and pretty much every single ANN staff member explaining the actual reason for these articles and talking about it in depth well before anything was even published.
Actually it’s not weird, because this is not a good faith argument. The people originating these Twitter conspiracies know very well they are nonsense. Their goal is disinformation.
With the mention of “Jake and Zac”, Mad_Scientist is referring to two ANN staff members, Executive Editor Zac Bertschy and Assistant Editor Jacob Chapman, whom some fans believe are weaponizing these accusations, Bertschy in particular due to his inclination towards ‘social justice’ rhetoric:
Disclaimer: anyone who uses the phrase “SJW” is a gigantic fascist-leaning piece of shit whose manufactured fake “”outrage”” should be dismissed and ignored as bullshit recruitment tactics. It’s all a bunch of bad faith culture war trash.
— Zac Bertschy (@ActionZacku) February 7, 2019
“Identity Politics” are valid. What it means, functionally, is “everyone who isn’t white/straight/cis asking to be treated equally under the law”
— Zac Bertschy (@ActionZacku) February 8, 2019
“SJW” is a term invented by white supremacists, used to demean and dismiss people who dare give a shit about the rights of marginalized populations, the rights and dignity of victims.
“Fascist” is defined by history.
— Zac Bertschy (@ActionZacku) February 7, 2019
The situation concerning Mignogna has caused a massive divide in the anime fan community, but there is currently no concrete evidence to support the theory that Anime News Network has run their story concerning Mignogna for less than cautionary reasons. However, it is apparent that their dismissal and deletion of more reasonable concerns from fans has further driven a wedge into that divide.