It started, as we noted the other day, when Allie Conti, a writer for Vice, The Atlantic and New Times in Florida, wrote a review of a small local con and deemed it “depressing”. More than 200 commenters disagreed, calling for everything from Conti to be fired or perhaps kill herself to the New Times to be shut down. I am not kidding.

Conti apologized, sort of, claiming she herself was a geek who attended willingly, but not really backing down:

However, there simply wasn’t enough merchandise and entertainment available at PalmCon to justify the ticket cost, even if it was less than ten bucks. No one asked me to attend the event — I went there because I wanted to check it out. As soon as I stepped into the convention center, I resented the fact that I had forked over my cash (on top of gas money and parking) for admission to a garage sale. Palm Beach County’s comics enthusiasts deserve better.

And…another 200 comments. Still calling for death and disgrace. And so New Times editor Deirdre Funcheon stepped in and offered a more conventional apology.

We sincerely apologize to anyone and everyone who was upset. It was not our intention to mock or insult. It bums us out to be in this tiff with you, because New Times has, for years and years, supported local comic and anime conventions. We’ve done numerous stories, the overwhelming number laudatory. So please accept our apology.

131 more comments.

If you Google PalmCon you’ll find more and more pieces taking one or both of Conti’s pieces to task. Jeebus, sensitive much? To be fair, Conti did commit an ultimate party foul by taking pictures of people in costume and then writing mocking captions next to them. That sort of thing is expected in Vice magazine, but elsewhere it is apparently grounds for suicide.

While this story is a tempest in a teeny tiny teapot, I’m somewhat bemused by the wrath and severity of the response to any suggestion that a nerd gathering wasn’t on the same level of experience as having an orgy with the cast of Supernatural while eating salted caramel ice cream. With unicorns. As you can see from the above photo, PalmCon was a modest local effort; Conti shouldn’t have taken it so seriously but it clearly was a small show.

Martin Pierro, the organizer of PalmCon, sat out most of the storm, but offered hs own take on FB:

I will be the first one to say that PalmCon needs improvement – this year was a massive learning experience for me and I am taking that knowledge and applying it towards 2014. The real reason I have taken umbrage with the New Times article is the tone of the piece, not in what she said about PalmCon. I was very concerned about the way she belittled the attendees and vendors, particularly the cosplaying kids who (as far I know) had a great time at the show. I conceived PalmCon to be place where the comics community could grow in Palm Beach County (my home), where people who enjoy the hobby could come together, hang out, share ideas and really just have fun. PalmCon was also meant to be a safe place for fans of all ages … however the New Times article brought in a hostile element and pretty much cyber bullied the attendees. The mistake was mine – I opened our doors to any and all journalists and reporters … perhaps that policy will have to change in the future. Like I said, I don’t mind a bad review – but negativity and sarcastic cynicism has no place at our show. I hope by next year this will all be a faded memory and that PalmCon 2014 will be equally as successful as years past. I also hope it will continue to be a fun and safe place for fans and families to celebrate their fandom.

I thought this was as classy a response as could be expected under the circumstances, given that no one—Conti or the commenters—looked very classy up until then.

In many ways the “PalmCon vs Vice Magazine Attitude” conflict on display here is a expression of the classic “nerds vs hipsters” culture wars. Based on their ability to post comments on newspaper articles, this is definitely a war that nerds have won.


  1. The death threats were ridiculous but, given her original article and her failure to show any real remorse in her follow-up, asking that she have her access to that particular readership taken away doesn’t sound too unreasonable. The parallel would be someone using their workplace email to insult a colleague and then being fired for it (something that happened to me – not proud of it). By all of us treating the internet like the Wild West and just accepting that bad stuff happens there, aren’t we just inviting more outlaws?

  2. Why would anyone leave a comment? She was obviously trolling for a response. The people that left over-the-top comments, demanding her suicide and/or firing were doing exactly what she wanted.

  3. While our local cons here in Phoenix have been getting better coverage from the local media, the Phoenix New Times has mostly been snarky about the local cons. While awarding LepreCon Best SciFi convention in 2010 and 2012, prior promo pieces by one of their writers had been so snarky that I’d asked them to have someone else do the writeup.

  4. Does it surprise anyone that the Beat is calling this a “tempest in a teeny tiny teapot”? If that was a male article writer saying the same things about the con and the cosplayers, we would be having a totally different article here on the Beat.

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