For the past year, anime fans have been embroiled in a conflict over voice actor Vic Mignogna. Funimation and Rooster Teeth cut ties with the Mignogna, famous for roles in Fullmetal Alchemist, Dragon Ball Z, Ouran Host Club and RWBY, after several fans and other voice actors accused him of sexual misconduct. Rumors have swirled around Mignogna for years among older anime fans, yet many others either didn't believe or refused to believe the accusations. Thus, an ugly conflict broke out.
However, even with Mignogna's lawsuit against Funimation and others seemingly dead in the water, fan outrage continues. Mostly contained within the social media hashtag #IStandWithVic, it has led to a destructive path of harassment, misinformation and even opportunistic profiteering. The lawsuit was probably doomed from the start, but the campaign around it made it worse.
Mignogna brought a defamation case to court, accusing voice actors Jamie Marchi, Monica Rial, Ron Toye (Rial's fiance) and Funimation Studios of tortious interference, conspiracy and other charges. Mignogna argued that, despite the longstanding rumors, there was some sort of conspiracy among these individuals to eliminate his career.
Yet on Sept. 6, when this lawsuit went to court, the vast majority of Mignogna's accusations were dismissed. While much of this has to do with the strong performance of the defense's legal team, a lot of blame can be placed on the pitiful performance of the plaintiff. Mignogna, for one, never showed up to court. Then his lawyer, Ty Beard, reportedly offered an almost-incoherent defense of Mignogna.
This conspiracy stuff is bananas. Look on judge’s face 😂. Apparently, the evidence of the plan is Monica and Jamie tweeting about the same person. Rational inference they had a plan.— Most Rational Inference Dachshund (@ottovonbisbark) September 6, 2019
Tweets from inside the courtroom depict Beard as unprepared, and unable to inform the judge of any proof of any argument he made. This got to the point where the judge outright told Beard, "I don’t think you have any evidence and that’s your problem."
It is also worth noting that Beard's filing was submitted on the very last day it could be filed, and, by many lawyers' accounts, was poorly assembled.
Procedurally, at the TCPA stage the court is prohibited from considering the Defendants' evidence where it conflicts with the Plaintiff's.— T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) September 2, 2019
Because, you'll recall, the judge isn't weighing credibility yet. Just looking for "clear and specific evidence"
But by attaching Vic Mignogna's *whoooooooole* deposition, what Ty Beard did is say "Hey Judge, you see the Defendants' evidence over there that you're prohibited from considering? We're making it *our* evidence that you're now *required* to consider"— T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) September 2, 2019
While the lawsuit is still ongoing (all charges against Marchi were dismissed, while most charges against the rest were dismissed), it seems unlikely Mignogna will win. You have to wonder why Beard, with apparently no real evidence, would want to keep pushing it.
To understand this, you need to take into account the social media presence of Beard, and his colleague, Nick Rekeita where they position themselves as right-leaning legal experts. Their involvement gave the controversy a degree of legitimacy. That led to the bolstering of the #IStandWithVic movement, as well as contributions by several YouTube celebrities.
THE HATE CAMPAIGN
As the movement grew, some members targeted those who stood up against Mignogna. It did not matter if the person coming forward was a fan or an industry veteran. The members of the #IStandWithVic movement would congregate and harass all who stood against them.
Several YouTubers ran entire videos focusing on individual fans coming forward with their stories. Regardless of their validity, the Mignogna supporters would spam and harass them. Voice actors like Monica Rial faced the brunt of it.
We cannot let people who don’t even care about anime tear our community apart for their own agenda. We cannot let them turn us against each other. I swear, when this is over I will do everything I can to try to reunite this community. I hope that you will be by my side. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/11ACCFiGii— Monica Rial (@Rialisms) September 5, 2019
Oddly enough, as the date of the case drew near, numerous false stories started to crop up, discrediting Funimation staff. Most famously, Rekeita posted several "leaked" outtakes featuring the Dragon Ball Z actors saying lewd things. Never mind that these outtakes, and others like them, had in fact been available for years at 18-plus panels at conventions.
Rekeita also spread rumors that voice actors Christopher Sabat and Ron Toye (one of the people being sued), intending to defame them. The evidence for these claims rarely held up under scrutiny, especially when people close to the matter spoke out.
One piece of purported evidence many #IStandWithVic supporters cited was an account allegedly given by voice actor Stephanie Nadolny that Sabat harassed and bullied her. The evidence of her accusation came from social media accounts that, Nadolny later confirmed, had been hacked. That culminated in this statement by Monica Rial.
This case doesn’t involve her and yet people decided to drag her into it and air her dirty laundry. It sucks, it’s cruel, and you should be ashamed. She has not even confirmed that the pic of the DM floating around was actually written BY HER. 🤦🏻♀️— Monica Rial (@Rialisms) September 5, 2019
To clarify, I felt betrayed because she was “liking” tweets that were inflammatory against me but it turns out her Twitter was hacked.— Monica Rial (@Rialisms) September 5, 2019
These distractions served only to try and defame those who criticized Mignogna, but didn't disprove anything he was accused of. Neither did these claims support Mignogna's lawsuit. They only hurt more people. All of these claims, one thrown out after the other, were a desperate attempt to bring down Mignogna's accusers.
While many fans acted out of a mob mentality, attacking those they felt were "against them," others found way for monetary gain. Some YouTubers exploited the trending topics to play the Youtube algorithm, much like how YouTubers exploited the hate mob against Brie Larson leading up to the release of Captain Marvel.
Only this time, the attempts to gain money were less transparent.
Rekeita started a massive GoFundMe campaign to, in part, cover Mignogna's litigation costs, raising more than $240,000 so far. However, Mignogna, when asked about the fundraising during his deposition, stated he gave "no permission" for Rekeita to create the page.
In the days leading up to the Mignogna case, the fan backlash over his firing led to an entire micro-industry of people profiting off of anger, which in turn reinforced the anger fans felt, and offered a direction for these angry fans to direct their anger.
And, in the end, it was all for nothing. Mignogna, or, more specifically, those around him, could have been better served if he kept quiet and waited for the heat to die down. By launching this poorly planned, ineffective lawsuit, he made himself even more of a pariah. His defenders, ironically, made him even more hated, by association. And with the case closing, all of the YouTubers and lawyers who financially gained from the situation will now lose a source of income. In the long term, no-one benefited.