The Dark Side of Calgary Expo

 

ObeyConsumeGroupThink is a psychological phenomenon which occurs when a tightly knit group of people who work closely together stop behaving rationally, and, rather, begin to believe in their own infallibility.

To put it more colloquially, the group starts to believe their own press clippings.

This has, unfortunately, happened to Calgary Expo, the large annual pop-culture celebration that occurs annually down at Stampede Park.  Calgary Expo has spawned a number of “sister” events, such as Edmonton Expo, which follow a business model very similar to their own.

This past weekend, however, an organization named the HoneyBadger Brigade, got kicked out of Calgary Expo, and banned from any affiliated Expo.  For life.

Why, exactly?  Well, at first, it was because there were “25 complaints of harassment”, and then there were accusations of disrupting a panel discussion, and then it was something about them getting into the show under false pretences.  Calgary Expo did, eventually, release this statement:

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No “evidence” ever got produced, of course.  The panel discussion they cited was certainly not disrupted, nor was it derailed, nor were the panelists harassed or attacked, The proof is here, on YouTube.  As you will hear, the individual was given permission to speak, and spoke very politely and respectfully to the panelists.

However, Calgary Expo did what they do when they are faced with a successful rebuttal to their excuses:  They moved the goalposts.

The HoneyBadgers Brigade did have some GamerGate-related material in their booth, and some people wrongly thought that GamerGate themselves had a booth at the Expo, however, last I checked, GamerGate isn’t a hate group, or a group that advocates illegal activity, instead, it has some rather enthusiastic supporters who, from time to time, say some pretty stupid things, and it has earned the group a bit of a bad reputation as being anti-women.

Except the people affiliated with HoneyBadgers ARE women, and respectfully advocated their point of view, in accordance with social norms and appropriate manners in a controlled discussion setting.

And Expo threw them out for it.

This, however, is a pattern of behaviour for Calgary Expo.  How do I know this?

Simple:  They did the same thing to me last year:

This little blog of mine is no secret.  It never has been.

In 2010, I got invited to help out at Calgary Expo.  Because the position I was being offered to help out in was a rather cool one, I accepted it in a heartbeat.  The following year, I was back again, and this time, I elected to write a blog about it.  So, being cautious to not reveal anything intimate or personal about any celebrities, I wrote about my experiences, in an extremely positive way.  I wrote about what had been said to me, what I saw happen in public areas, about how some of the celebrities interacted with each other, and such.

I also wrote about two pieces of information which were in the public domain – a celebrity’s signing fee, and how quickly the celebrity was signing autographs.  There is nothing wrong with working quickly, nor is there anything wrong with the fee the celebrity charges, and I made that point at the time as well.   These were two pieces of information which were blatantly obvious to anybody who was there.  So I talked about it.

Three Years Later, just before Calgary Expo 2014, I wrote another blog entry about my experiences during the 2013 Expo.  I wrote about how I had been working with Weird Al Yankovic, and, just after my shift had come to an end, I asked him to sign something of mine.  Now this is a critical piece of information here:  I paid my money for my autograph like everybody else.  I also had a place in line like everybody else.  My spot in line came and went during my shift, and I remained at my post.

I wrote about a few other things as well, and decided to ask Expo to check the blog over for any issues with it before publishing it.  Eventually, I got an email asking me to come into the office to meet with them.  After confirming the meeting with them and asking repeatedly what it was about (they wouldn’t tell me – which is never good) I went in to the meeting.

That’s when they kicked me off the team.

Their reason?  They had gone digging through my blog and found the 2011 blog entry I talked about above – and they told me that it revealed information with which they had a confidentiality agreement with the guest, and, had the guest found the blog, they would have been subject to a lawsuit, and, at which point, they would have had to come after me.

I explained to them that there was no way that was possible – I didn’t have access to the actual numbers, and I had simply used information which everyone had access to, so, by definition, it couldn’t be covered by the confidentiality agreement.

(I also checked with a lawyer, who indicated that I wasn’t covered by any contracts with any celebrity guests, so I could say and talk about anything I wanted, so long as I honoured any commitments I had made in the 2011 volunteer agreement – a document they were unable to actually find, or prove that I had signed.)

So, of course, what did they do?

They moved the goalposts on me.  They then tried to tell me that I revealed intimate details about the celebrity guests.  Again, I pointed out that nothing I wrote about was intimate or private – I wrote about interactions between the celebrity guests within the public areas — and the photo ops area, despite the screens around the actual booth, is a public area, because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, and paying members of the public have access.  I wrote about the celebrity guests’ interactions with me, and since they were direct interactions with me, if I choose to talk about them, that’s my choice.

I asked them to clear a blog entry.  They went digging.

I acted in good faith.  They didn’t.

In truth, they screwed me over.

What I think this comes down to is this – they believe their own press clippings.  The show has become such a success that they believe they’re infallible.  They can do no wrong.

The staff of the Expo also has a very serious left-wing, feminist, pro-environment slant.  That’s their prerogative, of course, people are, after all, entitled to hold whatever beliefs and ideology they want.  It’s also no secret that I’m a conservative.

I also named David Suzuki in my blog entry.  I pointed out that the man is arrogant, condescending, and can be downright nasty.  How do I know this?  I met him when I was in grade 9.

It seems that Calgary Expo had been in discussions with David Suzuki, and they were upset because my blog might have undermined their discussions.

Too bad:  I had no idea they were in discussions with him.  They keep all that information tightly under wraps (and so they should, by the way, for this very reason.)  But they cannot hold my opinion of David Suzuki, and my expression of that opinion publicly against me when I had no idea they were in discussions with him.

Here’s what I think went down:

I asked them to check the blog entry over.  They looked at it, and then went into my blog.  Because I’m outspoken, they read a few entries, and probably didn’t like what I was saying.  They then found my 2011 blog entry, and used that as justification to get me kicked off the volunteer team.

Just like they did to the Honeybadgers Brigade.

Calgary Expo does indeed have a dark side.  If you toe the “party line”, so to speak, you’re okay.  If you dare hold a different opinion than their leadership, watch out:  You’ll be excluded.

Fear Keeps You In Line

Or, in this case, it’s more than simply exclusion – it’s ostracism.  Shunning.

Now, I refuse to be a victim.  I don’t live my life allowing my experience with Calgary Expo to hurt me and continually affect my behaviour.  I’ve moved on with my life.  I give these people extremely little time and energy, which is why it has taken me more than a year to write a blog entry such as this.

However, now that they did it to the Honeybadgers, we can see that there’s a pattern of behaviour here, so I decided it was time to tell my story.

You may disagree with the Honeybadgers.  You may not like their message.  You may not like what they stand for.  You may not like GamerGate, their tactics, or what they stand for.

That is your right.  You can express your disagreement with them as well.  I certainly don’t agree with GamerGate on a lot of things, and I certainly condemn some of their tactics when it comes to outspoken women.  But, as long as nobody is advocating violence and inflicting harm on another, they have a right to express whatever opinion they want – even opinions you and I may find abhorrent.

So, here is what I think you should do if you’re considering volunteering with Calgary Expo:

Don’t.

Here is what I think you should do if you’re considering attending Calgary Expo:

Don’t.

Here is what I think you should do if you’re considering sponsoring Calgary Expo:

Don’t.

Here is what I think you should do if you’re considering being a celebrity guest at Calgary Expo:

Don’t.

Here is what I think you should do if you’re considering having a booth at Calgary Expo:

Don’t.

Calgary Expo relies on people like you.  They rely on a massive volunteer base to work for free for an entire weekend, so their ownership can make some money and put on the next year’s show.

After the way they treated the Honeybadgers this year, and after the way they treated me the year before, and, by their own admission I might add, a number of other volunteers, I think you want to ask yourself this question:

Are they worth it?

The answer, very simply, is “no.”