The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part X: Philanthropy > Douchebaggery
[All of our coverage of Charles Carreon's transformation from an obscure attorney to a figure of internet-wide ridicule is collected under this tag.]
It's time for some updates, boys and girls. I'm at an undisclosed location vacationing with the family, so I will by necessity be brief.
Money Talks. In This Case It Says "F.U.": Matt Inman has, as promised, posted pictures of the money he raised for charity. The pictures are beautiful. The triumph of good over evil usually is.
Forget It, He's Rolling: Charles Carreon, having dismissed his suit against Matt Inman, IndieGoGo, and two national charities, has now declared victory. Carreon apparently believes he prevailed because Judge Chen asked Mr. Inman to submit proof that he had written checks to the two charities. But Judge Chen did so in the context of requesting the basis he needed to deny Carreon's application for a temporary restraining order as moot. This is roughly like crowing that you dominated the captain of the firing squad by making him offer you a blindfold and a cigarette before shooting you.
Or perhaps Carreon believes he achieved victory because the cash Mr. Inman photographed was technically his own funds, not the funds he raised and forwarded to worthy charities. If this is what Mr. Carreon needs to live with himself, I say we let him cherish it. Oh, very well done, Mr. Carreon.
The Law Should Be What I Say It Is: Stinging from his recent infamy, Mr. Carreon has started a website called Rapeutation. Because being ridiculed based on your bad behavior is equivalent to sexual assault, you know.
The purpose of Rapeutation — aside from scrawled-on-the-asylum-wall poetry and disturbing videos — is to advocate for a new, rather ill-defined cause of action to address something called "Distributed Internet Reputation Attack":
Distributed Internet Reputation Attack (DIRA): noun, an attack against the reputation of an individual that harnesses the distributed efforts of large numbers of both human and digital Internet zombies to proliferate unmanageable quantities of disparaging information in an effort to alter the conduct of the individual or entity.
The use of the word "zombies" is always a signifier of serious and credible legal analysis.
[T]he frequency of DIRAs makes it apparent that old laws concerning defamation need reforming to take account of the pernicious effects of allowing Internet mobs to run riot, placing meaningful limits on what is fair play in the realm of social media. Suggestions will be made for ways to deal with the problem that will protect publishers from being required to play censor, including the creation of a new DIRA tort.
Even in lashing out, Carreon is unoriginal. Entire-internet-suer Joseph Rakofsky already offered the ass-damp tort of "internet mobbing," which in his case meant multiple bloggers criticizing him for making his very first trial an attempt to defend a man accused of murder. Rakofsky's fawners — the sort who figure that being an underdog is automatically a sign of having a defensible argument — have rushed to promote (in notably ambiguous terms) this supposed tort. And now comes Charlie the Censor.
But I must ask — why is a new tort necessary?
If anyone has uttered false statements of fact about Mr. Carreon, the law provides a remedy through the tort of defamation. That's still true in the internet age – it doesn't matter if the false utterance is made by blog, twitter, or cartoon on Facebook. What change could Mr. Carreon be suggesting?
Unless . . . Mr. Carreon, through the Trojan horse "fair play," is suggesting a major revision of fundamental First Amendment concepts solely to protect his own wounded pride and the feelings of his ilk. Will Mr. Carreon seek to change the familiar, crucial, and exquisitely American concepts that satire and parody are protected speech? Will he seek to erode the rule that statements of opinion cannot be defamatory if they do not imply false statements of fact? Will he seek to overturn the decades of precedent that speech does not fall outside the aegis of the First Amendment simply because it hurts somebody's feelings? Will he offer some insipid and unprincipled volume-based exception to the First Amendment, under which one or two people may criticize him, but ten thousand may not? Is Mr. Carreon foolish enough to imagine for a moment that such exceptions to free speech principles would not be abused — or is he too enraged to care?
People I respect — people I trust — say that Mr. Carreon was in the past a decent man who defended free speech. For such a man to stoop to undermine one of his own principles, and one of the most important principles of American society, is nothing short of tragic.
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