You’d think Frankenstein had released his monster, given the mobs that have been forming lately in certain parts of the voiceover industry.
I’ve been a big proponent of what a genuinely nice industry this is, and in general, that remains very true. We are, as a group, far more supportive and kind than most professions, and that is to our credit.
Recently, however, some cracks in our welcoming smiles have been showing.
There has long been a subculture of aggressive skeptics in our business. A handful of cynics who see any attempt to offer services to fellow voice actors as suspect. While their acid-tongued snark can be off-putting, they provide a service in their own right, as those who would seek to exploit their fellow VO’s know they have eyes on them, and that shady behavior is subject to being spotlighted. Most of these folks have been around for at least a decade or two, and they’ve seen the good, bad, and ugly of service marketing.
Every now and then someone steps forward and, for a time, plays the role of Sheriff. NAVA is filing those shoes in many ways today, helping organize legal help for those who have been misled by Lisa Biggs. I had my turn back when Voices dot com’s original ownership first betrayed our trust and ultimately took them to court, and yet others answered the call when Peter Rofe used his position to victimize women in our industry. It’s a lonely role and one no one would want it for long, but sometimes it’s necessary.
Calling out bad behavior and protecting our industry is healthy.
What is not healthy, however, is the forming of mobs and attempts at call out/cancel culture based on supposition, conjecture, and just because you don’t like the way someone promotes their services.
So, let’s have a look at the right ways and the wrong ways to point out wrongdoing in the voiceover industry.
The right way, step 1: Name names
Don’t be a coward.
If you have a complaint, concern, or worry about the conduct of a fellow VO or service provider, and you feel the need to go public, have the courage to say who you are talking about, and give them a fair chance to respond.
The wrong way: Vague-booking, talking around the issue, or framing things in a way that can be associated to particular person without standing up and saying who you are talking about. Also, please don’t use a paean to piety as a place to drop a link to your own coaching services. Because gross.
The right way, step 2: Identify a victim.
You find a person’s conduct problematic and have named them publicly? Great! Now, who did they harm, scam, or lie to? You? If not, we’re gonna need to know the name of the person or people they DID take advantage of. If the conduct is of a nature like the Rofe incident, and the identities of the victims need to be protected for fear of causing further trauma, the matter is probably best reserved for the courts until formal charges or civil action is taken, but that’s a harder call. Otherwise, a victim and bad act need to be identified.
The wrong way, step 2: Inferring malicious intent based upon marketing tactics or language.
Yes, there are absolutely many red flags that can be inferred from the way people sell their services. But we discuss those regularly in forums in a general way. NAVA has issued best practices guidelines. And we also need to stop and remember that in a free market economy people may market their services as they please so long as they aren’t engaging in misrepresentation. MANY of the tactics that we as voice actors have come to see as shady are staples of internet marketing and completely common in other fields, and just because someone is aggressive or ubiquitous in their marketing is not ipso facto evidence of bad intentions. Buyer beware, in all things. We have a right to protect each other, but we do not have a right to attack the business of our colleagues without concrete evidence of wrongdoing. The legal system has a term for that: tortious interference….and it’s a good way to find yourself on the wrong end of a civil judgement.
Which leads into…
The right way, step 3: Show proof, and make sure it’s the real deal.
You’ve named the wrongdoer. You’ve identified the victim and/or bad act. Now it’s time to close the deal. Show the email chains, the money trail, the belligerent voicemails and threats, the evidence of promises not kept.
If the evidence you post on social media would not be sufficient to close the deal in a courtroom, you are not only acting in a morally questionable manner, you are, again, placing yourself at risk of serious financial liability. Bring. The. Goods.
The wrong way, step 3:
Posting conclusions about the person you haven’t named and don’t have evidence of having victimized anyone.
“They’re a liar.” “They’re a bully.” “They’re cheating people.” “They’re a charlatan.”
There’s a legal term for this, too. Libel. And it can also be very expensive.
When you attack someone’s reputation in a public forum without the proof to back it up you are not only acting like a high school bully, you are potentially damaging their ability to make a livelihood and feed their family, and you’re also setting yourself up for substantial consequences should they be inclined to defend their integrity in a legal forum. This is the very reason the civil law concept of libel exists. You also run the risk of looking like a fool and a rabble rouser among your peers. So tread carefully.
I am proud to be part of an industry that is filled with so many shining examples of kindness and decency. And, keeping it real, I’m glad for the cynics and skeptics and sharp-tongued critics who keep ALL OF US honest. We need those people. And I get that recent events, especially considering that many people were victimized by someone considered by just about everyone to be reputable, have left us a bit raw and uncertain.
What we don’t need, however, are people forming posses because someone’s marketing or personality might not mesh with every best practice orthodoxy that we’ve been told is holy writ. Check their credentials. Ask for referrals. Review the offering. Make up your own mind. But unless you have proof of wrongdoing and are willing to name names, maybe think twice before you grab a pitchfork and join a mob, or form one.
Someone reminded me recently that trying to be the white knight/hero usually comes off as self-serving and virtue signaling. It’s advice we could all take a dose of.