"Internet Justice" and Paul Christoforo's Awful Non-Apology

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52 Responses

  1. Dan Weber says:

    He reminds me of the guys who flash piles of money to prove what ethical businessmen they are.

  2. Kelly says:

    I almost, briefly, felt sorry for this guy.

    After reading a few of his "apologies" I've come to the conclusion that he is truly a douchebag among douchebags.

    I do hope, though, that he was just fishing for sympathy when he implied that his family was being harassed.

  3. ElamBend says:

    I'm a big believer in the old saw that how a person treats a waiter (or anyone they may see as below them) is a true window into their character.

  4. Ken says:

    Dave Barry, right? "Someone who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person."

  5. tpp says:

    re: it hasn't affected my business yet.

    When one has no actual clients, there can be no negative impact.

    I don't believe for a second he has any clients at all. He's all bluster with absolutely no skills whatsoever to provide any of the services he's offering. Only a complete idiot would hire this dude.

  6. Scott Jacobs says:

    Other clients? God I wish I could fid out whose these companies are, so I could make them known. I bet a call for a boycot would effect his business.

  7. SPQR says:

    Don't know that I feel good about dragging other of his clients into this, Scott.

  8. Jeff says:

    Colin Whiteside (@Spacehost) sums it up best:

    If you got Twitter drama I feel bad for you son
    I got 99 problems but @OceanMarketting ain't one

  9. VPJ says:

    Another hallmark of sociopaths and narcissists: the “do you know who I am/who I know” syndrome.

    I'm surprised he hasn't claimed to be an ex- SEAL/Ranger/Green Beret/Mossad/Spetsnaz…

  10. Scott Jacobs says:

    It only feels wrong for a second. Then you realize that every company who dumps him would get free GOOD PR, and it feels ok.

  11. mojo says:

    Open mouth, insert foot. hey, it happens.

    It's the chewing on the foot that's problematic.

  12. Yeah. It's not just that Christoforo screwed the pooch, it's that he then insisted on being a serial pooch rapist.

  13. Ken says:

    I am so stealing that.

  14. Congrats on making the ABA Journal's fifth annual top 100 law blog list!

  15. David J Rust says:

    I had a chance to exchange some Tweets with Kyle Orland. I think I know where he's coming from. He felt that the work done by Penny Arcade already documented all the background such that people could do the research themselves without his own interpretation.

    Still, he does editorialize (as you quote, he uses the phrase -in his role as writer/narrator of the story- "A chastened Christoforo is now looking for forgiveness from the Internet community he unwittingly antagonized, saying…"). The journalist's use of terms like "chastened" and "unwittingly" make the assumption that the subject of those terms is to be believed. This, however, could be an example of floral writing getting out of hand. I don't think Mr. Orland has a horse in this race.

    I think I identify with him a bit much since I used to be a reporter for a very small, bi-weekly, GLBT newspaper. It went out of business, burned me out, and forced me to look at my own writing practices as well as reporting practices before it was all over. Trust me: I don't ever want to go back. But, that said, I get where the article may have come from.

    As for your own piece, it's very valuable. I hadn't drawn those conclusions about narcissism and -essentially- sociopathy until reading your own work. Thank you for your assessment. It clears up a lot of my own misgivings coming from the "is this appropriate" camp.

    I would say that "appropriate" is not germane to any discussion of this sort since regardless of the answer one might develop, there is nothing that can be done about it. If it is "appropriate", fine; things transpire as they transpire. If it is "inappropriate", what can you do? This is the result of the internet hive-mind. No one individual is going to assess themselves with a context outside their own, personal sphere of influence … certainly not when the aggregate of an entire community is moved, similarly, in the same direction. "Does he deserve it" or "is this response appropriate" matter in a large, sociological perspective but fail when applied to the individual, I think. I don't know if you agree, but that's my take-away from reading your piece.

    Your thoughts?


  16. Ken says:

    I can certainly see the distinction between collective action and individual action, if that's what you are referring to, Dave. So — how do we manage it? Ought one say, when faced with asshattery, "I shouldn't write or comment about this because the collective weight of posts and comments will be somehow excessive?" I don't find that workable, frankly. If it moves me, I write about it. I try to address "appropriate" by giving people links to primary information they can use to make up their own minds and disagree with me if so inclined.

  17. David J Rust says:


    Oh, not at all! Forthrightness and straight-forward writing on subjects are the answer: not something to be avoided. Each person needs to assess, themselves, what is the appropriate response for themselves rather than looking at the larger picture and saying whether or not the storm that showed up on Paul's doorstep was "deserved".

    My apologies if I was unclear.


  18. LTMG says:

    «crunch» … the sound made when stepping on a cockroach. Looking forward to hearing more «crunch» from Popehat in 2012.

  19. LTMG says:

    Hmmm. I put the word "crunch" in angled brackets at the front of my post and between the words "more" and "from" in the second sentence. Disappeared. Didn't expect that.

  20. Bob says:

    What we need to complete this whole story is an appearance by Derek Smart.

  21. bkd69 says:

    @SPQR: Paul says it himself:

    “It hasn’t affected my business yet,” he said. “Clients have brought it up, but they’ve mainly laughed about it. I haven’t lost any clients.”

    So his remaining clients are not only aware of his douchebaggery towards the people they want to get money from, but they also endorse it. Besides, what PR/Marketing agency isn't proud of their client list?

    Though I rather suspect, given his business philosophy:

    money buys a lot and connections go even further.

    that the remainder of his client list consists entirely of Axe-huffing frat-bros engaged in various MLM enterprises.

  22. Tim says:

    You nailed my sentiments exactly! He is only apologizing because some big names in his business have frowned upon his assclownishness! Like he told the first guy who outed him on the internet, "you're just one of millions."

    So lowly paying customers don't count for crap, but big business and major accounts are worth treating with respect. This guy has no concept of customer service, let alone valuing another human being. He was king kong until he realized that the world was taking notice. He even dared his customer to spread the word, claiming it would only bring him more business! He repeated the claim in his MSNBC interview that down the road this would bring him more business.

    I have to confess I hope he loses all his business until his head pops out of his butt and he can sincerely say. "I was wrong, I shouldn't have treated you that way, and I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"

    Just sayin….

  23. Windypundit says:

    If he's really a psychopath as Ken implies, then his current customers (if they exist) are just more victims. They're in for a hard enough time already. No need to make it worse.

  24. Martin says:

    I don't think he is a psychopath, but "soziopath" was the first thing that came to my mind when I read the "apologies". ASeriously, that dude is fuxored up in the head

  25. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    If your reputation depends on the internet, you have far worse problems than what's being said about you on the internet.

  26. Goober says:

    Windy – psychopath and sociopath are interchangeable terms. They mean the same thing and describe the same condition. Sort of like "horny" and "randy". Or "filthy" and "grubby". Or "turd" and "trouser chili". I believe the term is "synonym". Or something.

  27. Goober says:

    Ahhh, but CSP, ALL of our reputations depend on the internet. And word of mouth. And any other social network where people communicate with each other who is a bastard and who is not. The internet is merely a tool, it is not an entity of its own. It is just a much further-reaching, faster acting word of mouth where everything you do is in writing and memorialized for eternity.

    That being said, i wonder why i'm writing this right now. Imagine the risks I'm taking…

  28. Shane says:

    This is the typical non-apology apology. 'I am sorry that you took offence at something that I wrote'. The fault lies with you for taking offence as nothing I have written is offensive.

  29. SPQR says:

    bkd69, that Christoforo says his clients are OK with his behavior is hardly a credible report on the behavior of his clients.

    And there are those who think that the list of remaining clients is less than "1".

  30. Rliyen says:

    In HP fandom terms, this would be called a Heidi-pology.

  31. eddie says:

    Regarding Daniel Nye Griffiths' Forbes piece – it certainly wasn't a hard-hitting interview, but I don't think it deserves to be criticized for not being hard-hitting. Not every interview needs to be. And while I share your minor misgivings regarding the tone of the coda, I'm reluctant to condemn the author for it.

    To the contrary, I found the interview – specifically, Christoforo's feeble attempts at self-justification – interesting and entertaining. I appreciate Griffiths for coaxing more material out of him than I had seen elsewhere previously, and I'm willing to chalk that up to Griffith's non-confrontational stance. Sometimes you can get more out of someone through a neutral or favorable stance than through hostility.

    Like you, though, I still REALLY REALLY want to see the cretin put through the wringer. We need someone who's sharp-witted and sharp-tongued, someone who questions idiots on a daily basis, someone who can really turn a poetic phrase when put to the task.


    When are you going to email Christoforo?

  32. Jess says:

    I think I found his soul mate – Jennifer Petkov. Look her name up on the internet. Real piece of work. Unfortunately they seem to breed.

  33. Scott Jacobs says:

    Wait, so lemme get this straight… When Paul talked about being able to get into PAX East, no matter what Mike said, he was talking about a) knowing the guy at the fucking door and/or b) maybe getting a buddy to sneak him on the show floor via the loading docks???

    Jesus, this Paul guy is just too stupid to live.

  34. Turk says:

    It Isn't necessary to do a hard hitting interview on a guy like this. All you need to do is feed him some rope and he will hang himself. No need for an interviewer to do this for him.

    I love seeing guys like this in depositions….

  35. Daniel says:

    A quick correction: Orland did ask Christoforo about the plagiarism, and subsequently elected not to include the answer in his piece, because it was ancillary to the main story. When asked about it later on Twitter, he shared the answer he got and his reason for not including it.

    Journalists often generate far more content than they can use – that's just the way it works. At some point, a decision has to be made about what to cut. As it happens, I went through the same process – I talked about that specific issue in an earlier draft, but dropped it because, in my opinion, it didn't add anything more than "and here's another bad thing he did!" You feel that was a bad composition call, which is fine.

  36. Ken says:

    Daniel, I see that Orland got an answer blaming Indian subcontractors for the plagiarism. Again, tastes apparently differ, but I find that highly worthy of note because he promotes Ocean as made up of experts on how to promote yourself effectively on the web.

  37. Rick C says:

    @Scott Jacobs: from the original mail thread, it looks like Christoforo was saying "if you take my booth away I'll just walk around on the floor." I don't think Gabe (Krahulik) was trying to ban him from the show entirely, just revoking his vendor booth.

  38. "Deserves got nothing to do with it" was also said by Snoop, in The Wire, shortly before she was killed.

  39. Daniel says:

    In an article collating every discovery about Ocean Marketing, that would certainly be the case. That article is out there – in fact, there's a timeline in the Examiner which would be a great place to look for something like that article, where the Orland tweet is archived. I linked to that article, and I definitely think you'd enjoy it.

    Orland, it seems, wasn't writing that article, so he decided to leave it out. As I say, that's a thing that happens. Different people write different things, and different people like those things more or less. And that's fine.

  40. smurfy says:

    "Sorry, I never would have punched you in the face if I had known you were a black belt. Can you please stop spin-kicking me now?"

    funny, just yesterday I came across an actual instance of that happening:

  41. Turk says:

    You have to check out his Twitter feed before it disappears. It is unbelievable what he has been posting the last few hours.

  42. Scott Jacobs says:

    For the record, @OceanStratagy isn't his feed anymore.

    He moved to @OceanDeepSea, though I personally suspect he's moved on again.

  43. ertdfg says:

    "Basically, what Mike [Krahulik] did is this: If you were in a bar, drinking and hanging out with a bunch of people, and in that group of people was one guy that you didn’t know was a mixed martial arts champion. He knows he can kick the **** out of anyone in that bar, and you happen to pick a fight with him. He doesn’t tell you what he is, you take a swing at him and the next thing you know you have a broken jaw and you’re on the way to the hospital."

    And Mike did clarify who he was, and told Paul to Google him… before Paul threatened both Mike and the Penny Arcade site with smears from a supposed marketing staff of 125 people; which IMO is where Paul f***ed up.

    If I see Bernard Hopkins, have him tell me he's Bernard Hopkins, have him tell me to check who he is and what he's done before I do something stupid… and then I swing at him anyhow?

    Somehow I'm guessing that sort of act would elicit derision and not sympathy from pretty much everyone.

    I'm not sure why you'd blame someone else when you step on your own d*ck hard enough to break it.

  44. Ken says:

    The surest way to tell people new to Popehat is their belief that it is necessary to use asterisks.

    Welcome, ertdfg.

  45. TheAngryPhilosopher says:

    What an ass this Christoforo guy is. Nevertheless, there remains (shockingly) ample time to turn this whole debacle into a good thing for (almost) everybody concerned. Well, maybe; the whole "impersonating someone in an email" thing is hard to get around, even with a 180 degree turnaround from this guy.

    But here's my serious suggestion for how Christoforo could salvage the tattered shreds of his reputation while doing some good in the process: offer to host an event at PAX East where people can donate to Child's Play and then pelt him with objects. So, say, donating $5 will give you the chance to hurl an ice-cold water balloon directly into this guy's face. And donating $25 gives you a shot with a full-size cream pie.

  46. Scott Jacobs says:


    Exactly. Paul's bar-fight example missed the part where the guy you're picking a fight with introduces himself as "Brock Lesnar, MMA fighter".

    "MMA? I love MMA…"

    And then you keep poking the guy saying "what the fuck you gonna do about it tough guy?"

    Anyone who is working in the games industry as PR AND who claims to "love Penny Arcade" really needs to fucking know Mike and Jerry's names on sight. The fact that Mike was mailing from an address that had "@pennyarcade.com" in it should have been a fucking hint.

    TAP, I think a dunk-tank for charity would be a great idea.

    But I would much rather a "Hit Paul Christoforo with a baseball bat – $100 per swing" booth.

  47. Rick H. says:

    Since I've never tweetered in my life, is there somewhere on the web where you can see both sides of a twitstering thread? The link above only has Griffiths' disembodied responses in a list, which is less than meaningful if there's a conversation going.

  48. Daniel says:

    Rick H: The easiest way to do it is to go to bettween.com and punch the names in – it will thread the exchanges between two people by timestamp – like this.

    There's an update to the Forbes piece, which brings in responses from N-Control and other sources and brings in some of the context from my previous article – that's here. There's also a looser and more wide-ranging (bloggish rather than journalistic) response to the situation here. I think my position is pretty consistent throughout the three pieces.

    Making lists of sins committed by Christoforo is no doubt interesting to a lot of people, and people are enjoying finding out new things – like the excuse given for the cut-and-pasted content to Ryan Orland, which I clued Ken in on above.

    This public condemnation appears to be scratching some pretty satisfying itches: salesman, aggressive customer service rep, MMA-loving jock, self-identified SEO and marketing expert – Christoforo covers a lot of flame-attracting bases in general before one even touches on his personal affairs and business practices.

    But, ultimately, I think that to focus exclusively on the recent and historic misdemeanors of Paul Christoforo is to look at the magician's patter and the flourish of the empty sleeve, not the pocket watch in the magician's shadowed hand. It's a noisy, flashy diversion from a more interesting story, IMHO.

    Ken begins this post by saying "'deserves' got nothing to do with it", and then spends the rest of it arguing that, in fact, Christoforo does deserve the treatment he is getting – and, in some cases, worse treatment than he is getting. That's working one possible angle – the morality angle. However, morality is an op ed or editorial angle, not a story angle.

    The more interesting story angle, again IMHO, is about ethics rather than morals. And the ethics and practice of being a hugely influential commentator (of whom there are few), or of being a small business handling a global PR catastrophe (of whom there are relatively few) are more interesting than the ethics and practices of being a marginal one-man sales/online marketing/SEO operation (of whom there are many). The bottom of that pyramid is interesting primarily for the light its conflagration sheds on the upper levels. Again, IMHO.

    It's perfectly OK to think that a different angle is more interesting, of course. If you want to see what happens when somebody asks most of the questions that I think Ken wanted asked (apart from the plagiarism question, which was asked by Ryan Orland), there's an interview by Matthew Stewart at Gameranx – http://www.gameranx.com/features/id/4238/article/oceanstratagy-paul-christoforo-himself-speaks/ – which I think asks them.

  49. TomD says:

    Dear lord… Teh Internets Series of Tubes intersect in bizarre ways. I did not expect the Christoforo story to show up here. Not that Christoforo doesn't probably deserve the Interwebs version of water boarding, but he really got unlucky in having the story blow up during the news-dead holiday week. (I wonder if all this unravels into any criminal charges. Nah, I'm sure Christoforo never engaged in any financial fraud or cheated on his taxes…)

    For all of us who provide services to clients: Read the original e-mail thread that Penny Arcade posted. Christoforo really looses it when "Dave" (the customer) wrote a multi-paragraph e-mail (Dec 26, 2011 12:11 PM) that basically said "you're doing your job badly, and here's a explanation of what you are doing wrong." Christoforo could only hear, "I want my gizmo now!!!" and got nothing more out of it. From personal experience, I can tell you – if you are ever so lucky as to get such a letter/e-mail/dressing down from a client that you have failed, suck it up and listen. I, unfortunately, earned such a dressing down from a client, and I am much, much better for it. No, the pissed off client will not be 100% on point, but it's an extraordinary opportunity for you to figure out where you need to improve professionally. Learn from it or continue to suck.

  50. AlphaCentauri says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with "narcissist." (I'm not so sure about "sociopath.")

    People with narcissistic personality disorder have spent their entire lives learning to cope with life by believing they are special and entitled and that anyone who doesn't agree is either ignorant or envious. But the abnormal coping often is due to being raised by bullying family members who thought that nothing they did was ever good enough. It's a common personality disorder in the children of alcoholic parents.

    Narcissists are very resistant to professional psychological treatment, let alone normal social pressure from shaming. If they ever doubt their own special-ness, their entire world view collapses.

    I doubt anyone is going to get this guy to behave any better by keeping the issue alive. He's intrinsically incapable of learning from criticism. With narcissists, it's more effective to let the matter drop and hope they later on convince themselves that behaving better is a brilliant idea they thought up themselves.

  51. Ken says:

    I wouldn't have asked the domestic violence question in that interview, FWIW.

  52. Scott Jacobs says:

    Neither would I. Charges were dropped, it never went to actual trial, so I am inclined, due to knowledge of such events happening to others, to let it go entirely.

    For all we know, she was wailing away at him for 5 or 6 minutes, and all he did was hit her once in the hopes she would stop. She calls the cops because he dared to hit her back first, and he gets arrested because OJ Simpson ruined everything for the rest of us.

    And TomD was right on the money – A customer's "here is how you are fucking this up" letter will never be 100% correct, but it will nearly always have a few good tips for you to learn from and apply to future dealings with customers.