Ben Garrison is a real American hero and a formidable warrior in the battle to keep free speech alive. When we learned that it’s possible to commission a Ben Garrison original we knew we had to do it immediately, if not sooner. Not only is Ben a great guy to support but a cartoon or logo drawn by Ben and and shared with his legions of follows will get you a ton of traffic and name recognition for your website or business. Ben is now regularly making headlines on major news sites and he’s doing commissioned work for big names like Milo Yiannopoulos, Stefan Molyneux, Mike Cernovich, Charles Johnson and more.
Along with the release of our cartoon we decided that it would be nice to also interview Ben and see what makes him tick. So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Benjamin Garrison!
Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
My dad (a Pearl Harbor attack survivor) was a career Navy Master Chief, and so we were always on the move. Even after he retired from the Navy in the mid 1960s, we kept moving. He was never happy staying in one place for too long. I have some good memories of San Diego, a horse ranch in Idaho, the Oregon coast and Bremerton, Washington. After he retired, we all moved to San Angelo Texas. Dad was a big, strong man who believed ‘might makes right.’ He was also an atheist. He didn’t know how to be a father and he treated us kids like his crew. He liked to bark out orders at us and there was hell to pay if we didn’t instantly do as we were told. He could also peel paint with his cursing. For him, it was an art form. He was a heavy drinker and could turn mean on a dime. He was the most pessimistic, negative man I’ve ever known. He did teach me how to fish and he liked to go camping. We all grew up appreciating the outdoors. He also taught us kids gun safety. My mom was his polar opposite. She was always kind, encouraging and optimistic. She also was an artist and I got what talent I have from her. I started drawing cartoons when I was in the 5th grade.
Since going freelance what have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced? What do you like most about being your own boss and what do you like least (or what challenges you the most)?
I was in the newspaper biz for about 20 years before I started my own business. I enjoyed working at newspapers because the editors and reporters were generally cynical and didn’t automatically worship the publisher and senior editors. Many there were not politically correct. They would crack jokes about anything— nothing was sacred. I later found out that many real-world companies would never tolerate such an environment. Most corporations operate a tight, politically correct ship. Employees are expected to toe the cultural line laid out for them. In other words, people are now afraid to make jokes or speak their minds while at work. Political correctness has become so pervasive and insidious that it has turned many people into robots who repeat company policy and the SJWs have taken over too many HR departments. People get fired these days if they say the ‘wrong’ thing. I did very well on my own for many years until I began drawing cartoons. My biggest challenge is trying to compartmentalize my commercial art from my cartoons. I began to lose business when I started drawing them. Perhaps these days one can’t enjoy free speech unless one is also independently wealthy.
How did you get your start and what made you decide to start drawing political cartoons?
I had drawn a few cartoons at newspapers in Texas when I was in my early twenties. They were mostly about Texas politics. Other cartoonists told me my cartoons weren’t funny and that I was too much of a nice guy to ever become a cartoonist. I was told I wasn’t mean enough. I discovered my meanness in 2008 when the big banks were bailed out. Instead of going to prison for their real estate derivative investment fraud, the bankers were rewarded with gigantic bonuses. I urged my congressman and two senators not to pass the bailout bill, but it passed anyway. Patty Murray later told her constituents that we had to ‘eat our vegetables.’ She treated voters like children which made me angrier. I began studying the Federal Reserve and our immoral system of money. I read many books and watched videos on YouTube. In 2009 I penned my first anti-Federal Reserve cartoon. I sent it out to several newspapers and was mostly ignored. I heard back from one editorial page editor and it was clear he thought I was some kind of nut. So I turned to the Internet and began publishing them on a simple blog as well as posting them on a few message boards. Some went viral and I got a great response from people all over the world.
What did you do at the newspaper primarily if not cartooning?
I specialized in design, information graphics and an occasional illustration. I worked for a long time at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and I didn’t draw any editorial cartoons there.
Who are you biggest inspirations both for cartoons and fine art?
I started out by wanting to be a fine artist, but I became a commercial and newspaper artist to make a living. Picasso and DeKooning were my two biggest inspirations for fine art. I liked cartoonists such as Thomas Nast, Bill Mauldin, MacNelly and Oliphant, even Herblock. Nast single-handedly took down Boss Tweed while Herblock helped bring down Nixon. That shows how much power some cartoonists could muster. Not so much today… editorial cartooning has declined. Too many cartoonists take a politically correct, statist approach. They use cheap jokes and their ridicule is mostly aimed at the right. Too many think humor is of paramount importance when it comes to political cartoons. They’re wrong. Satire isn’t just about giggling. Most cartoons penned by liberals these days amount to puerile, but well-drawn name calling. Many liberal cartoonists claim conservatives can’t be funny because we’re the ‘status quo,’ but now that status quo is more left-leaning. Who could be more establishment and status quo than crooked Hillary?
Besides buying your artwork and supporting you on Patreon, what can you fans do to support you?
I can’t thank my Patreon fans enough. They probably don’t know it, but they pulled us through some very rough times. A few times I was considering hitting the road and living in a tent. Their positive energy encouraged me to draw more cartoons and now this year is the best year I’ve had for my commercial art in a long time. It may be coincidence, but I started getting more work in once I stopped caring about the libel and trolling aimed at me. I am trying to sell more prints and T-shirts on Teespring. My wife Tina has been a big help. She handles a lot of the selling, mailing and marketing. She’s also a good cartoonist in her own right and I keep trying to get her to draw them. There aren’t many conservative female cartoonists out there. Anyway, I’ve had a lot more support and encouragement come my way this year and it’s humbling and inspiring at the same time. To be clear, I never began drawing the cartoons for riches or fame. In fact, they caused me to become broke and infamous, ha ha. Seriously, I did them because I wanted to protest corruption. If I can eventually get enough support to draw them full time, then I would only get better at them… because I wouldn’t have the distraction of trying to make a living from commercial art.
Do you like receiving unsolicited cartoon ideas from your fans or do you feel that undermines your creative process?
I don’t mind it and I get a lot of people writing me with cartoon suggestions. Some of their ideas are excellent and I have drawn some of them. Sometimes their ideas spark ideas of my own. I always try to credit the person when I draw them. Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to draw many of the good ones sent to me and many have expiration dates. For example, someone suggested a good idea for Obama’s trip to Cuba, but I was too busy with commercial art to draw it.
What percentage of your time do you dedicate to political cartoons versus fine art?
My fine art has suffered recently because any spare time I’ve had this year has been spent drawing the cartoons. Fine art is my biggest passion, however. And before I had to leave the gallery I was in (trolls had attacked the owner), I was starting to sell more of them. Let me say again, that the SJWs and trolls are not harmless and not always easily ignored. They go after reputations and livelihoods in order to shut down the free speech of those with whom they disagree.
Was there a single catalyzing event, or something you read that catalyzed the realization that you were “on the wrong side of” the free speech and “hate speech” issue?
Yes, and forgive me for being long-winded… but I’m going to lay out the truth here and it will take some time.
When I began getting libeled and my copyrighted work was changed into racist and anti-Semitic hatred, my first reaction was anger. I wanted justice. After spending money on lawyers, I discovered that it was hopeless without spending tens of thousands of dollars. I tried to raise the money after my wife suggested a crowd funding site, but very few donated aside from a few friends and family. It was embarrassing.
Then I became fearful. Fear and hate is a very bad combo. I didn’t want to lose my ability to make a living. I also lost a lot of money when JP Morgan engaged in illegal and collusive market rigging. They pulled the plug on silver in 2011. I had been ‘all in’ on silver at the time and I lost a fortune. So I needed work, but if you typed in “Ben Garrison” on google, the very first prompt that would come up was ‘racist.’ That can be rather off-putting to potential clients. I was at the end of my rope and I lost to the Internet Hate Machine. Andre Oboler, who started the Online Hate Prevention Institute, offered me his help for free. He was also a professional Internet sleuth and told me he could track down some of my main tormentors. One was a young guy named ‘Dean’ from Leeds, or so Andre claimed. He suggested I draw a cartoon of this fellow to let the trolls know they were not anonymous and could be held responsible. So I drew the cartoon of the guy on a laptop with his underwear around his ankles, thinking the trolls would pipe down and leave me alone if they knew I could hit back. Nope, the cartoon only made them angrier and the trolling got even worse. They turned me into a meme, ‘Zyklon Ben,’ a racist, white supremacist in Montana who was bent on mass murder. Their doppelgänger kept the hate mail coming my way. A lot of people really believe what they see on Google as if Google were some sort of god that verified it all. I became the most trolled cartoonist in the world.
Andre Oboler is a kind man who I think means well. There are many out there who believe in ’absolute’ free speech, but it also includes some nasty stuff such as snuff films, child porn, murder threats, blatant libel, harassment and bullying. Facebook has community standards. It has a right and maybe even an obligation to police the site that it owns. The trolls do not own social media. Those who want to engage in hate speech are free to set up their own sites and spew their hate on their own dime, but they’d rather do it on sites such as Facebook to garner a larger audience. When Facebook wasn’t doing their job, Andre stepped in to help encourage users to complain and report offenders.
There was seemingly an endless parade of troll pages on Facebook calling for mass murder based on race and religion—with my name and face all over them. Those pages clearly violated Facebook’s stated community standards, but Zuckerberg is a cheapskate who doesn’t bother to pay for decent moderation. Facebook allowed trolls to use my name and face as well as my cartoons, which were vandalized into crude racist and anti-Semitic hatred. These pages had thousands of likes. Many more people saw the racist cartoons than my real ones. The trolls would call a typical libel page the ‘official cartoon site’ and told viewers to ‘ignore the fake Libertarian guy who was under Jewish control.’ On these pages I could typically be seen in altered photos. They would ’shop’ me into photos featuring black men being hung by ropes in trees and add quotes supposedly made by me calling for murder. There were a spate of quote boxes, with my name and signature on them, describing how I wanted to murder Jewish children. It was horrific stuff that made its way into Google searches. Hate mail streamed in steadily. I filled out complex forms to get these pages removed and Facebook refused to take them down. They said they ‘did not violate community standards.’ Andre was the only person who wanted to help me. My own lawyer didn’t do anything, I guess he knew it was hopeless and eventually he returned my money. Andre contacted a VP at Facebook and finally got one of the pages taken down. Then another would appear a few days later and I was back to square one. In 2014 alone, I spent over 100 man hours trying to remove libel from the Internet (I kept track of my time). That was time better spent producing art. There were 10 doppelgänger pages on Facebook in 2014 alone.
To make matters worse, I began to realize my approach was totally wrong. I had been too anxious to prove to everyone that I was ‘not a racist.’ I was operating from political correctness because I knew my livelihood was at stake. When I began drawing the cartoons, I had no idea about Internet culture or how destructive the trolls could be. I was naive to think my intellectual property rights would be respected. I was also naive to think I could stop the trolling. Andre tried to help, but his involvement only made things worse. When he went to the UN to make a speech about removing hate speech from the Internet, I knew I had screwed up big time. I was on the wrong side of the issue. So now I added regret to the anger and fear. I don’t like hate speech and we should use our free speech to condemn it, but once we make laws forbidding the expression of hate, it leads down a terrible slippery slope. Eventually one could get arrested simply for speaking out against Muslim immigration, for example. That’s where it’s going if we don’t stand up for freedom, which includes hate speech.
With the tent looming, I couldn’t go on with the hate, fear and regret. I had nothing to lose, but for a while I considered halting the cartoons altogether. I should have accepted my plight as an unfortunate byproduct of free speech. I should have treated the attacks with humor and indifference. Instead, I had been on the wrong side of the fence while I kept trying to sweep away a rising tide of libel with a broom. I wrote a self-published book designed to defend myself. It cost me a lot of money. It was a flop. I gave away more copies than I sold.
Nothing worked, so I decided to engage in an AMA on 8chan. I decided to answer their questions and if they wanted to attack and insult me, so be it. To my surprise, I had fans there! They liked my real cartoons. I even teamed up with the guy who ran the site, Frederick Brennan also known as ‘hot wheels’, and we sold some coffee mugs featuring a cartoon had drawn of him. My cartoon showed him sitting in a burning, hellish wheelchair. I had originally drawn it to insult him, but he actually liked it. That 20 year-old kid could take an insult, so why couldn’t an old man such as me take it? I really got wise to myself after that. I changed my attitude and approach. Now I treat such things with indifference and humor. With the help of my wife Tina, I’ve now reclaimed my own voice and I finally moved on. The trolls didn’t need to change, I did. And I have. To help make amends for my earlier stupidity, I began drawing a lot of anti-SJW cartoons. Once I realized who they really were, there’s no excuse not to go after them. I just wish I had seen the light sooner, but I first had to jettison the anger, regret and fear (and the politically correct bunk that had been drummed into me for years) and forgive myself for my mistakes. It feels good to be on the right side of things again.
Is the hot wheels mug still for sale?
No, it was a limited edition, it’s no longer available. Tina handled the sales, we went through zazzle.com and they took a huge cut because they supplied the mug and printing. Still, we made about a lot and I split it with the 8chan operator.
If you could choose your clients for commissioned cartoons, who would you like to do a cartoon for (person, business, organization, etc.)?
I’ve enjoy doing them all. I especially liked the ones I did for Mike Cernovich, Sargon, Milo Y. and Stefan Molyneux. Sargon commissioned another one that was complicated and I just couldn’t sort it out to my liking, but I haven’t given up yet. I may still draw it on my own once my brain solves the puzzle.
How is life in Montana? It seems to me like it’s probably one of the more free minded states. What aspects of government over-reach and police state tactics reach or effect you most in Montana and what effects you least?
My wife and I lived near Seattle for 20 years. I like the Puget Sound area, but it became more and more crowded and had terrible traffic. Even hiking in the Cascades became more crowded, in the summer it was a conga line. Also, the red light ticket cameras were springing up like mushrooms and the rules, regulations and taxes were getting worse. Montana is great. Not much traffic, wilderness areas are a quick drive away, and there is a law here preventing any red light ticket cameras. In nearly 10 years of living here, I have not been pulled over by a cop, not once. Taxes are low. The people are friendly. People wave to each other. It is palpably more free here. This is how America used to be when I was a kid and there are like-minded liberty-loving people here. And, of course, it’s beautiful. You can see the milky way at night.
Do you plan to stay in Montana for the foreseeable future?
We have no plans to leave Montana.
What/who are your favorite news sources?
I usually go to Drudge in the morning for the headlines. I like Zero Hedge a lot as well as the usual conservative and libertarian sites. I have many YouTube channels I follow. I follow some liberal channels and sites, too—I want to better understand their thinking.
What do you think will be the best course of action, if free speech becomes criminalized in the US or even globally?
It’s already becoming criminalized in parts of Europe. Everyone needs to become squeaky wheels and start squeaking loudly. We need to loudly protest and not give into their gradualist tactics of slowly removing our freedoms. The Thought Police must be resisted and denounced at every turn. Milo Yiannopoulos is doing the right thing by refuting the SJW nonsense with logic, reason and humor. He goes to college campuses and everyone can witness the name-calling protests and foolishness he faces firsthand. We need to stop participating in our own enslavement. Don’t turn in guns when ordered. Don’t fall in line when we’re called names. Most importantly, never. apologize for using our free speech.
Are you familiar with encryption and privacy tools such as PGP, Tor, OCR, etc.? Do you use them? What do you think about their ability to help preserve and promote free speech?
I’m not familiar with encryption, but we need to protect our privacy, so I’m all for it. Free speech shouldn’t have to go underground, but I’m all for anything that prevents the NSA and Big Government from adding to their dossiers on every citizen out there. That’s why the CIA must love Facebook, people volunteer all sorts of stuff that can be used against them down the road.
Do you think Snowden is a Patriot? Do you have any suspicions (like we do) that there may be more than meets the eye to the Snowden affair?
We should support all whistle blowers as well as muckrakers in the alternative media. I encourage everyone to become citizen muckrakers and do the job that the mainstream media are no longer doing. Some young men, like Charles Johnson and Pax Dickinson have started a site called “wesearchr” just for this purpose. That is, true investigative journalism. I did a commissioned cartoon for them to help their launch.
I like Snowden and what he did—I see him as a patriot, but your column raises some interesting points. Still, we saw what happened with Breitbart and Michael Hastings. They are heroes, as were people such as Irwin Schiff, the income tax protester. He died of cancer in prison while remaining shackled. Bill Clinton could pardon billionaire Marc Rich after Rich’s wife donated millions to the Clinton Foundation, but nobody would help Schiff. It was disgraceful. We saw how the FBI executed the protester LaVoy Finicum. Another man who stood up to the Fed bankers was rancher Byron Dale. He was brutally beaten by the police and sent to the hospital, then later charged for resisting the beating. He spent some time in jail, but that only made him angrier. He’s since made it his life’s mission to denounce the debt slave dollar and make people aware of the dysfunctional money system that has been forced upon us. It really is the source of all of our other troubles. The Federal Reserve is the heart of darkness and must be shut down.
We couldn’t agree with Ben’s views more. We think it is very important to support Ben and people like him. If a commissioned cartoon isn’t up your alley, you can support him on Patreon and you can buy his work on his website and eBay. We have never asked for monetary support from our fans and hope we never will have to, if you are able to offer monetary support, then support Ben and others like him. Free speech isn’t free!
If you’d like to enjoy our cartoon in all it’s high resolution glory, you can find it here.