Comics legend Mike Baron and his pro-cop comic book “Thin Blue Line” are unwelcome on Facebook or Reddit, despite not breaking any of the rules stated on either platform. Facebook has so far blocked all attempts by Baron and his team to use Facebook ads. The largest comic book social media page, the “r/comics” subreddit, which has more than 1.7 million subscribers, has now blocked all posts about Baron’s comic, and, it seems, this author.
It’s yet more of the now endemic banning and shadow-banning of non-leftist content across all major Internet platforms. Conservatives are often still treated as second-tier users at best, blocked on social media, shamed in online communities, only to be occasionally tolerated but never welcomed.
The modern-day comic book industry and nerd culture industries are antagonistic to traditional perspectives and conservative worldviews. So some nerds, being dedicated fanatics (the root of the word “fan”), have decided to make their own way.
Creatives have leaped over the gatekeepers and now sell their ideas and products directly to their audience using the internet. These projects, like Ethan Van Sciver’s “Cyber Frog,” are often so successful they outsell anything the mainstream comics publishers are doing. But social media still plays a critical function in their success.
Despite being an Eisner Award winner (the highest award in comics), Baron, like so many comics creators now suddenly seen as right-wing, was banned and rejected from publishing his pro-law enforcement superhero book project through traditional means. He thus turned to IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. After a series of media appearances and interviews, including with this outlet, the campaign succeeded.
Facebook Bans Ad Since It’s on a ‘Social Issue’
Baron’s team has applied for Facebook ads on multiple occasions to advertise the campaign. Every time they have been denied, based on the idea that law enforcement is a “social issue.” The official Facebook policy for social issues says the following:
Advertisers can run ads about social issues, elections or politics, provided the advertiser complies with all applicable laws and the authorization process required by Facebook. Where appropriate, Facebook may restrict issue, electoral or political ads.
This massively broad policy allows Facebook to basically ban whatever social issue ad it wants.
For one, Baron’s page shouldn’t need to get authorization, as his content doesn’t fall under the social issues, elections, or politics rubric. The book isn’t even out yet.
On appeal Facebook added: “Our policy for running ads about social issue, electoral or politics requires you to get authorized first by confirming your identity and creating a disclaimer that lists who is paying for the ads.”
Baron followed the authorization process, and he yet has not heard back from Facebook. According to the official Facebook advertising policy, nothing says a comic book promotion isn’t allowed.
Possibly, Facebook is not denying the ad based on what’s in it, but on the social media updates for the project on IndieGoGo. The comic plot is inspired by the Black Lives Matter riots of 2020, and part of the plot features a female officer pinning down a black man. In the video trailer for the comic, a background scene portrays protestors carrying signs such as “Screw the blue” and “Defund the police.”
But that content isn’t in the ad nor on the comic’s Facebook page.
Part of the irony in all of this is that there are many Facebook pages with much more sketchy content, like the company Toomics, which routinely gets away with promoting links to pornographic content. Do they have to worry about getting in trouble for posting about “social issues” too?
Reddit Alleges ‘Misinformation and Racism’
But it isn’t just the king of social media that is blocking Baron from publishing content about his comic. When Baron and his readers try to post links to the comic or media appearances on Reddit, they often find the posts banned. When a reader tried to link to my interview with Baron on the largest comics’ social media page on the net, the r/comics subreddit, the post was removed by moderators for “misinformation and racism.”
According to the subreddit’s rules, the post should have been in the clear. A user tried to get an explanation from the moderators: “Please point out the ‘racism’ or misinformation’ in the post that merely shared a link about Mike Baron’s Thin Blue Line graphic novel.” In return, he was muted.
My interview has nothing to say about race. The interview itself is meant to expose readers to a well-respected comics creator getting back into comics and doing it on a meaningful topic to conservatives. When I interviewed Baron, I interviewed him as a professional reporter. It’s a mainstream story of relevance and of legitimate interest to the comic book-reading community.
Baron isn’t a racist. He is married to a lovely Korean woman; the story’s protagonist is a Hispanic woman with a black partner. But to “moderators,” it doesn’t matter that the creator is a legend, famous for his run on “Punisher,” “Flash,” “Batman,” “Star Wars,” and more, nor that the article is unobjectionable. The actual content is irrelevant.
Journalists, social media platforms, and the keyboard justice warriors who moderate them feel that since the story doesn’t call all cops bastards and that the outlet is *gasp* conservative, these things are equivalent to dangerous racist misinformation. So, the legitimate non-lefty work gets throttled, blocked, and hidden from view — outrageous behavior, but typical of Big Tech.
Update, Jan. 30: Late Friday evening, following the publication of this article, Facebook allowed an ad to start running for Mike Baron’s Facebook page. Facebook ads authorization had not been given previously. The ad started running as if Thin Blue Line had been wrongly categorized to begin with. In addition, the Thin Blue Line Facebook Page learned it had been temporarily locked out of Facebook Messenger for three days following the original ad denial. Frustratingly, but typically, there has been no explanation from Facebook nor even a notification as to why the ad change happened nor why they were blocked in the first place.