Here are some of the things Paul Elam of A Voice for Mens has said in the past that the $80,000 plus in donations his site aims to take in every year go to:
Dedicated servers, image royalties, legal fees, internet radio premiums, various kinds of computer and media hardware — and now traveling to different locations, like Toronto, in order to do what has been in the plans all along.
Here are a few things Elam has not said the donations have been going to:
Buying him sandwiches. Paying for the down payment on a condo. Paying his cable bill. Paying for DVD rentals. Buying tasteful framed art for the walls and tchotchkes for the end tables. Buying him suits for his big important media interviews.
Well, now he’s fessed up — sort of.
After a bit of a kerfuffle about financial transparency in his site’s comments section, Elam has finally admitted what a lot of us have been assuming but that he’s been loath to admit: that he’s been living off of his supporters’ donations — and a generous girlfriend. As he explained in a post yesterday:
Donations are used to meet my personal living expenses (with the help of a supportive partner), especially as I have not yet figured out a way to do this 14-16 hours a day and also hold a full time job.
Was that so hard to admit? Apparently it was, so hard, in fact, that he chose to admit it in the quietly evasive passive voice, so as to symbolically avoid responsibility for taking his donors’ money even as he acknowledged that this was what he was doing.
Now, is there anything wrong with making a living, or a part of a living, off of a “donate button” on a web page? Of course not. I have a donate button, and I run regular fundraisers; all of the money I collect — which I greatly appreciate, though it is only a small fraction of what AVFM takes in — goes directly to me, as I’ve always made clear.
Is it wrong for activists to make a living off of their activism? No. Plenty do, though few live lavishly. Most serious activist organizations depend both on paid staff and volunteers.
But I think there are two problems with what Elam has done.
The first is that he’s basically been fundraising under false pretenses, claiming that the money was going for various other costs and never — until now — admitting that a chunk of the money was going directly to him. He still won’t say what percentage of the money goes to him — and his silence on this point suggests to me that it is probably a large one.
His unwillingness to offer any real transparency beyond admitting that some of the money goes to him seems a tad, well, ironic in light of his site’s bad-mouthing of former AVFM-er Kristina Hansen for her alleged lack of transparency with regard to a much smaller sum of donated money.
The second big problem is the hypocrisy. Elam has been essentially urging his followers to adopt vows of poverty in order to devote more money to AVFM — and thus to him. He’s bragged, on several occasions, about getting $100 donations taken from a donor’s unemployment checks.
And in one notorious post, he literally offered a big “fuck you” to men who came to AVFM seeking help, telling them explicitly to “go fucking bother someone else with your problems” — if they hadn’t already offered help to AVFM by hitting the donate button.
I am tired of seeing a handful of men and women fight for a cause that should include millions. I am tired of seeing a comparative handful of men and women cough up the lion’s share of financial assistance when most, even some who come here every day to read and cheer on FTSU, won’t cough up five fucking dollars to help us out; who are just fine as long as none of the burden, even a trivial part of it, is on them.
After a bit more ranting, he offered this advice:
If you want things to change, then stock up on Ramen, get cozy in your studio apartment and join us in the fight to fix this shit. Don’t ask us to help you, but rather give your life the only meaning it may have left, as someone ready and willing to turn your meager existence into helping others who have been similarly screwed over.
Emphasis mine in both quotes.
Apparently the main “other” that doners have been helping has been Elam himself.
And as far as I can tell Elam hasn’t exactly taken his own vow of poverty. The photo at the top of the post is a partial screenshot from a recent AVFM video, which evidently shows Elam at home. To me, that doesn’t look much like the bleak studio apartment of a man living a “meager existence” on Ramen noodles.
Still, if there are men out there who want to send in hundreds of dollars from their unemployment checks to support Paul Elam in the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed, that is their right, I suppose. They should just be aware that’s what they’re doing when they donate to AVFM.
NOTE: I should make clear that I don’t know what exactly Elam has spent his donors’ money on. It is possible that he has not spent any of his donors’ money on sandwiches, condos, cable bills, DVDs, art, tchotchkes, or suits. Those were just guesses. As for me, I do spend some of the money I get from donors on sandwiches, rent, cable bills, Netflix, and of course cat food.