News Flash: Crowdfunding Enables Scam Artists

I read about this Kickstarter last week when it was covered by a few different blogs. It’s got all the hallmarks of a compelling story, and is sure to drive lots of website hits for anyone who writes about it. A nine-year-old girl wants to build her own video game to prove to her brothers that she can do anything! What child-hating, puppy-kicking atheist could possibly be opposed to that?

But let’s look a little deeper at the actual project. The opening video is clearly done by someone with a trained hand. Not that this is a problem – folks who use Kickstarter to raise money often get the help of someone who knows how to make cool presentations.  Slick music, special effects, brevity, clarity…there are certainly a handful of nine-year-olds that could pull it off, but how many of them have heard of “STEM Camp”? Sounds like a mommy word…


I guess I applaud this girl for never wanting to be like “this woman” – who the hell could possibly enjoy the company of fat people when you can have giant elfin ears?


Apparently this video game will also stop little girls from marrying Peabody Award winners and “Birthers”!  Every little girl knows boys are Cooties Central anyway!  Gross!

Now I can’t fault mom for having an agenda, but I suddenly get the impression that this project might be an attempt to advance some other ideas rather than to advance MacKenzie’s game-development skills.  But maybe MacKenzie just has really strong opinions about gold diggers and let her emotions seep into this video – it happens.  But let’s read more from the project page:

Most people call me Kenzie. I’m 9, in 3rd grade, and I’m getting straight A’s. I’ve always been the tallest person in my class and this year I’m actually taller than my teacher. I love computers, video games, apps, and role playing games – especially Magic the Gathering and Borderlands 2 that I get to play with my Dad (because my 15 & 16 year old brothers are too mean to play with me). But we do have D&D tournaments on the weekends which is cool. My favorite PS3 game right now is Dragon Age II.

In case it’s not already clear, I’m not a girlie girl. I have friends that are which is fine, but I hate wearing dresses (so I don’t) and I do lots of stuff my brothers do. Maybe if I sisters it would be different, but I really love my family (even when my brothers are mean to me) so I guess this is the way my life is supposed to be.

That’s a pretty well-crafted emotional appeal for a third-grader.  Like any good sibling, she throws her brothers under the bus every chance she gets – twice in just the first two paragraphs!  I’m sure mom wouldn’t trash her own children like that, but hey, mom’s not in charge here.

Note: the rest of the Kickstarter page has been altered since I first saw it (and will undoubtedly change again in response to the ongoing controversy), but I’ll work with what’s currently displayed.

I got a KindleHD for my birthday and I take it with me everywhere.  I know I can read books on it and sometimes I do, but I mostly watch TV and play games on my Kindle.

This is the additional evidence that we may be dealing with a totally normal girl.  Who doesn’t like playing games and watching TV?  I know I do!  But I definitely don’t want to make games or be an actor, just as someone who enjoys a good meal may not want to be a chef, or someone who listens to Justin Bieber wants to be a musician.

I play games on my computer, PS3 and KindleHD all the time and it’s fun but I REALLY WANT to create my own games to play.  Ultimately I want to learn to program really cool stuff, but since I’m 9 I’m starting with RPG Maker because it lets me create something awesome without having to know how to actually program everything.

Awesome – nothing wrong with learning new things!  I remember when I was doing similar dabbling with technology, but I only had BASIC and Hypercard – I would’ve saved my allowance for a year if there was such thing as “RPG Maker” when I was growing up!  But if she “REALLY WANTS” to go to STEM Camp, her enthusiasm is probably infectious:

If you’d rather not watch 12 minutes of some girl describing the characters involved in Naruto, I give you permission to skip it.  The parts where mom tries to goad the girl into talking about how they will relate to the game are absolutely cringeworthy – this girl shows no initiative in wanting to create a game (which, again, is totally normal and not something to be mocked – when I was her age I could talk for hours about the various skills and abilities of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but it never entered my head to make a game about them).

It’s no secret there aren’t enough females in STEM professions so part of my Kickstarter campaign is aimed at raising awareness and getting girls thinking about careers in technology at an early age. I want to be a role model for kids – but especially to girls so there are more girls in tech because I don’t want to be the only girl in the room.  My Mom and I created fun messaging about things girls can do followed by “KEEP UP!”

Now the pieces are coming together – maybe this Kickstarter is attempting to manipulate the fact that not enough women are involved in technology in order to make some money.  It’s not a secret that many tech-oriented circles are “boys clubs” but this isn’t a problem that can be solved by giving money to a third-grader (or her mom).  In fact, I’d argue that this carefully-crafted manipulation of the real issue is detrimental to the advancement of women in technology, but that’s a topic for another time.  Also, have you ever heard of a third-grader who uses the phrase “fun messaging”?  I thought you were only allowed to talk that way if you worked in internet marketing.  Let’s continue:


What started as a plea for $800 to attend a camp now also involves “fun messaging,” logo design, and screenprinting!  Talk about ambition!


Can’t believe this one doesn’t have any backers yet.  Just $10K gets you access to MacKenzie’s brother, begging for forgiveness for whatever crimes he has committed.  I don’t really get how this works though – does he get that $10K then?  I’m not sure how else she is going to convince him to give a heartfelt apology, or how she was able to extract this promise in the first place…

I could go on about all the crazy stuff this mom has done in the past, but to me, it’s pretty clear that this entire Kickstarter is designed to separate fools from their money.  But why would I waste my time talking down a run-of-the-mill scam artist?  First, she’s exploiting feminist ideals for her own financial gain – as I mentioned before, the technology sector is male-dominated and that can create an intimidating atmosphere for women.  If you’re interested in supporting groups that attempt to change this, there are plenty of them out there.

But exploiting your daughter (who appears to show very little initiative in this project) to achieve this?  That’s taking it to another level.  Even portraying her brothers as really mean is sketchy and manipulative – what happens when one of them tries to get a job, the employer does a Google search on his name, and finds out that he was so mean to his sister that she started a Kickstarter project to spite him?

But it’s not just the manipulation of her children, it’s also the brazen way she flouts her own naivety – she just can’t admit she’s made a mistake, and her condescending attitude doesn’t help as she digs a deeper hole:

From her comments:

The only reason there is a $10K tier is that it was added after we’d surpassed the goal and Brenda Romero (google her because she’s got far more clout in this field than you do) asked me to do just that.

“Google her because she’s got far more clout in this field than you do”?  What happened to the good ol’ days of judging based on Klout score or who’s in your MySpace Top 8?

My gosh @RC and all the others contributing $1 just to spread negativity, I’ve asked KS to add a button to decline a donation because that would nip this in the bud.

While I’m sure to Susan Wilson it’s just “negativity,” I think it’s important to let potential backers know that there is very compelling evidence that this is a scam.  It would be easier to perpetrate scams if people would just stop talking about them, right?

I LOVE Truth & Transparency. Remember, THERE IS NO MORE ANONYMITY on the internet. Privacy is in fact dead. I’m good with that – despite the twisting some people have tried to do. And I hope all of you are too because even the people that pledged $1 with the intention of commenting and removing their pledge will be fully outed as the larger story of attacking a 9 year old’s campaign is covered.

I love the irony here, almost as much as I LOVE CAPS LOCK.  She loves transparency (this comment was made after her past was made more public, and included some other embarrassing crowdsourced fundraising attempts, and her poor attempts to sell the domain with the help of an anonymous Twitter account).  You can read the whole thing here if you enjoy watching someone go off the rails.

Further, when people make sweeping proclamations like “THERE IS NO MORE ANONYMITY ON THE INTERNET” – chances are they have recently been hurt by being exposed online, or they read too many hip business publications.  Her threat of “exposing” everyone who only contributed a dollar in order to comment on the project indicates that she’s been hurt by the dirt that has been dug up about her, and wants to inflict that pain upon everyone to contributed to her own pain.

And this latest comment as of this writing just drives the point home – mom will do anything to tug at the heartstrings of those who read about this project:

THIS IS FROM MACKENZIE: Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. If you were me in my situation, a bunch of adults hating on you and your mom, how would you feel?

I’d feel hurt, confused, and manipulated.  I’d wonder what exactly I did to get myself into this situation.  I’d want some voice of reason (who is *not* my mom and will not tell my mom what I say to them) to reassure me that I did nothing wrong, and that the people on the internet don’t really hate me (because they don’t, no matter what your mom wants you to think).

I really hope this girl is able to see a therapist – the situation that her mom created for her has become toxic to the development of a child.

2 thoughts on “News Flash: Crowdfunding Enables Scam Artists”

  1. Excellent article sir.

    I can’t believe kickstarter allowing this child abuse to continue.

    It’s clear from the video that the mother hasn’t told the kid about kickstarter.

    Imagine the kid finds out what the mother has been doing. The international shitstorm and the $23k raised in her name.

    I really hope kickstarter isn’t able to get away with this by just staying silent and waiting for it to go away.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I think the daughter is aware of the project but mom is clearly the driving force. And not to give them a free pass, but remember that Kickstarter is in the business of facilitating crowdfunding – rejecting projects based on Terms of Service violations means they see less money…as a business, they have more to lose by the potential backlash of halting this project (future projects might choose to go to a Kickstarter clone).

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