Patreon is a site kind of like Kickstarter, only instead of paying for projects, you pay a small amount of cash monthly to support a show or person. So if you're a comic book writer making stories about LGBTQ superheroes or a programmer making erotic video games, you can get the money to create work that a gatekeeper like a record label or publisher would never put money behind.
But one person's monthly stipend for creative work is another's pathetic handout. Reactionary online conservatives worried about the slow creep of social justice issues on the internet see Patreon as a way for social justice warriors to live fat off of the generosity of others. They call it "hipster welfare."
Urban Dictionary, the troll-authored slang library for the out of touch, defines hipster welfare as: "Living off of monthly donations from Patreon for bad art or 'important work,' usually of the social justice variety, which is often subpar or unsellable otherwise. Basically, receiving the financial equivalent of a pity fuck."
In the alt-right framing of the world, nobody actually wants to pay for all this SJW garbage. On subreddits and blog posts, men's rights activists and their ilk grind their teeth at the idea that someone like vagabond musician and songwriter Amanda Palmer or Gamergate anathema Zoe Quinn are raising real incomes by doing work that they see as fringe or activist.
Chapo Trap House is a leftist comedy podcast that lampoons the online political landscape through an absurdist lens of psychosexual pathology and race science. In only four months, Chapo Trap House's "hipster welfare" check is $12,000 every month for access to premium episodes.
Matt Christman, co-host of Chapo Trap House, says that the right sees Patreon as "ideological charity" for those that can't really make it in the market.
"Cons see people who take to Patreon as failures in the free market of creative endeavor who are getting charity from like-minded SJWs, because no one wants their crappy ideological art in the first place," Christman said. "A successful Patreon defers the punishment at God and the market has ordained."
It's not just progressivists winning on Patreon. Right wingers are also funding their own media projects, like Red Letter Media or the Rubin Report, a show by a former host from the liberal the Young Turks network whose personal political trajectory is something like becoming woke, but in reverse.
Shows, blogs and comics from all ends of the spectrum are pulling in thousands of dollars a month from Patreon. But still, progressive projects are painted by conservatives as aberrations and handouts within a free market, even if they prove their worth on the market's terms.
For Jack Conte, the CEO and creator of Patreon, this is a symptom of Patreon's rapidly gaining popularity. The site is only three years old, and is already doling out tens of millions of dollars a year to artists.
"We knew these underserved communities had discussion and membership, but nobody was getting paid until a service like Patreon came around," Conte said by phone. "When you put a dollar sign on it, it becomes very clear how powerful and large niche communities actually are."