I am completely fired up over Amp having sold his website, Amptoons, long identified as a feminist website, for cash. The ultimate purchaser of the site has now created a page featuring links to reviews of hardcore misogynist, racist, and teen pornography, including photos.
Here is Amp’s explanation, posted on September 13 on Alas, and my response. He allowed no comments and no pings (trackbacks).
Announcement: I’m not the owner of “Amptoons.com” anymore. I sold it a couple of months ago.
Five months ago, I was facing two problems. First of all, I was in real financial trouble – we were paying all our bills, but by a slimmer margin each month, and if things had kept on going that way it was only a matter of time before we’d come up short. Plus, one person in the house hadn’t been able to pay his rent in a long time, while another seemed on the verge of being unemployed (although as it turned out, that was a false alarm).
You know, I can think of a million better ways to solve the above problem than selling a feminist website out from under feminists to people who don’t give a rip about women or feminism. I will get to some of my thoughts about that in a moment. I admit to having little sympathy. Between 1996 and 1998, having been put out of business by the Religious Right (I published a paper magazine), I was destitute and the sole support of seven children. I could have sold my pristine, clean, up-to-date, never-once-sold mailing list of 30,000 names. I could have sold my magazine. I desperately needed the money because although I had no income, I had a job– running what remained of the magazine, which is a long story for another day. I did not sell the magazine or the mailing list, because I was not in a position then to discuss a potential sale, or other options, with my subscribers, and I felt it would be wrong to sell the magazine or the mailing list without first discussing it with them. Although the magazine was my idea, I created it, published it, edited it, wrote for it, did all the paste-up, everything, still, it wasn’t mine alone. It belonged in my mind, again, to everyone who had had a part in making it the success that it was. So I didn’t sell it, desperately as I needed the money. I found other ways to get by.
Second of all, I kept on having to beg my host not to shut down “Alas” for using too much server time – and in fact, “Alas” was briefly shut down more than once, and I was forced to remove a lot of functionality in order to reduce server load. My host kept on telling me that I needed a dedicated server, but the cost of that is well beyond anything I could consider.
I’ve been operating websites and boards since 1996. Long, long ago, and over years and years, I have egregiously exceeded my allotted bandwidth. At the moment, my websites are on a dedicated server– my ISP bought a new server and moved all but my websites onto the new server. I have never paid an extra penny for this. At the moment I pay $90 a month for DSL service and three websites. The only time I am given flack by my ISP is when I get demanding for some reason, like when my boards got hacked a few years ago, and it took days and weeks to fix them, and I was constantly calling to find out when we’d be back up, when we’d be fixed, why are we down again, whatever. It may be true that the ISPs Amp has used have demanded more and more money. But if he’d opened the subject for discussion, hell, I’d have suggested he move his site to the ISP I use! I am pretty certain others would have made similar suggestions. A techie woman on my boards once described, complete with relevant links, creating websites she was able to run for less than $50 per year using various cut-rate ISPs and domain name services. She not only got the domain name for less than $10 per year (through godaddy.com), she got webhosting and other services, including e-mail addresses, for less than $40 per year. But since none of us was asked, we couldn’t offer our suggestions.
Or, Amp could have closed down the blog part of his site, saving it for the sake of archives, and then started a regular WordPress or Blogger blog for free and just continued on with Alas. Or he could have limited comments. For just a few ideas.
Then a buyer approached me offering to purchase amptoons.com, so he could use it to improve search engine rankings for his clients (how that all works isn’t something I have any knowledge of). He offered a substantial sum of money – not enough to erase my money worries, but enough to ease the pressure for a while. Plus he offered to provide a free dedicated server for “Alas.”
Just what we, as feminists, can get behind: improving search engine ratings for porn sites!
The contract took months to wrangle,
And over all of those months, you said absolutely nothing to those who read and commented to your blog. You asked for no input, no feedback, no suggestions. As though your blog is what it is because of you and you alone, or because you paid for server space. Your blog was what it was because of all the people who commented to it, read it, guest blogged there. They made it what it was, too. Their words, on your site, are what caused it to be widely read– not just your words. And their words are their words– not yours. Their reputations are their reputations, too. That being so, I believe you owed it to all of the people who supported your site by commenting to it and guest blogging to ask for their thoughts and views before you irreversibly tied their words, comments, guest blog posts to a page which links to misogynist, racist internet pornography. You could have gone ahead and done what you were going to do anyway, nobody could have stopped you, but at the very least, we’d have had a heads up, and we could have stopped posting before the porn links page was created, and hence we would not have unwittingly helped to boost the search engine ratings for porn sites with our feminist, woman-centered postings! This is especially true for those of us who oppose pornography, for whom this is central to our feminist politics. You know who we are. You owed us *at least this*. But you allowed us to keep posting, and boosting the internet ratings of racist, misogynist pornography websites, for months. You didn’t let us know until people had discovered for themselves that these porn reviews were part of Amptoons. And even when you finally let us know, because the porn links were found on your site, you didn’t allow for commentary or feedback or even trackbacks. Why? Because you’d cut a deal at our expense, and you didn’t want to hear about it? Because you didn’t want search engine ratings to go down, possibly compromising the deal you cut behind our backs?
but here’s the bottom line: The new owner has absolutely no control over the content of “Alas.” However, “Alas” plus my cartoonist pages are the only parts of amptoons.com I have any access to or control over. The buyer also has the right to put in one or two inconspicuous links on “Alas,” positioned in a way that would make it unlikely that anyone but search engine robots would follow the link.
Evidently, more than search engine robots followed the link, eh? Did it even occur to you that someone like MyzTee might follow the link and let your anti-pornography, anti-racism, anti-sexism constituents know that in posting to your website they would be boosting the search engine rankings of websites they lay awake nights scheming to close down?
I was assured by the buyer that he would never host porn sites on “amptoons.com.” And I wrote into the contract that his link on “Alas” could never be a direct link to a porn site. But beyond that, I have no ability to control what the buyer does with his pages – the deal is that he has absolutely no say in what’s on “Alas,” but we also agreed that I have no say over what he does with his own property. And – as a couple of “Alas” readers have noticed – some pages I don’t own include links to porn.
I’m essentially in the same position as someone with a blog on “blogspot.com” – I don’t own the domain, and although I control what’s on my own blog, I don’t have any say over what’s posted on the domain other than my little piece of it.
I disagree that you are in the same position as someone with a blog on blogspot.com. You have sold your name — Amptoons — a name which is connected in the minds of many on the internet with feminism, anti-racism, anti-sexism work, to individuals or an organization which has no concern for women, feminism, racism, or anything but lining its own pockets. In this, you have betrayed everyone who commented on your blog, guest blogged there, or just plain trusted you to do right by women and progressive people. It would be like me selling my domain names to a conservative Christian organization, so that if people clicked on a link on my page, however inconcpicuous, they would be directed to a page with links along the lines of, “Women-who-have-abortions-are-murderers/womensspace.org,” or “women-submit-to-your-husbands/womensspace.org,” or “patriarchy-is-god’s-plan/womensspace.org.” I might have a right to do this, but I would feel an obligation to my readers, commenters, and guest-posters, if I had some, to at least discuss it with them before they learned that by their clicks, they were supporting organizations they were dead set against. This would be the very least I could do.
I realize that some “Alas” readers will feel that I’ve sold out, or that this puts me beyond the pale. I’m genuinely sorry for that. For the record, I don’t feel I’ve been victimized (as one person suggested in email), nor do I feel like I’m a total sell-out. What I feel is this: I’ve made a compromise, one that I probably wouldn’t have made in a perfect world.
That’s all. And now, back to your regularly scheduled political rants.
(Comments are closed on this thread. If you want to talk to me about this, please drop me an email.)
There are so, so many other options which you could have explored, Amp. You could have just laid everything out to your readers/commenters/guest-bloggers, told us what you’ve told us in this post, asked for our suggestions. In addition to possibilities I’ve already listed, some might have wanted to take up a collection for a dedicated server for Amptoons. Feminists, including your guest bloggers, might have wanted to, and been able to, get together and buy Amptoons under terms and conditions similar to the organization you finally sold it to. At least it would have remained feminist and progressive. If you had that many hits, lots of progressive/feminist organizations would have likely been willing to pay to advertise on your site. That’s how lots of websites make it, by selling appropriate advertising. As it stands, people who have read, commented, posted in good faith, and who have thus helped to provide you with connections and opportunities you would not have had otherwise,(whether or not those connections and opportunities are lucrative at the moment) find ourselves summarily dissed, betrayed, treated as though what we stand for and believe is unimportant and as though the support we showed for you over the years was meaningless to you.
I will finish with one promise to my own readers and commenters, here and on my sites. I will never sell any website or blog I own without first discussing it with all of you and exploring every option. You have my word on that.
Amp, I think what you have done is so wrong. This is the way the good work of feminists, radicals and progressives, gets eaten up, co-opted, eventually is made invisible. I hope in this, you are not a trendsetter.