Crowdfunding sites are a barometer of public opinion. Divisive political events might make for great media headlines and social media posts, but if you want to find out what the public are thinking, look no further than Go Fund Me.
For example, the crowdfunding page set up for journalist Andy Ngo, who was hospitalised with a brain haemorrhage after being savagely beaten when covering an Antifa rally in Portland, Oregon, with his camera equipment also stolen.
While it had an original goal of $50,000, within two days the ‘Protect Andy Ngo Fund’ raised over $170,000.
Looking at the comment section on his page reveals what people are really concerned about: free speech, political violence, and the state of civil discourse. As one donor wrote: ‘What his politics are, is irrelevant to me. Mob rule is obscene.’
Ngo’s supporters are concerned about a loss of fundamental freedoms. However, some commentators are pushing a more divisive narrative.
The New York Times wrote the incident will be ‘Fuelling conservative alarm…’ about the threat of Antifa violence.
HuffPost and The Independent UK both wrote pieces arguing the attack on Ngo distracts from the real problem, which is far-right violence. Doctored headlines that claimed Ngo staged the attack were also widely distributed online.
This is not about partisanship. The public are supporting an innocent, unarmed man who was attacked.
Crowdfunding is an expression of free will and beliefs. People spontaneously come together to express their support for a cause. Further, people who would otherwise not be meaningfully involved can be. People from all over the world can donate to Ngo quickly and easily.
It costs nothing to share or like an article on social media. Crowdfunding requires a financial commitment.
If you want to know what the public are concerned about – follow the money.
Monica Wilkie is a policy analyst at the Centre for Independent Studies.
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