A brief update on a case I'd written about on my old pitiful blog, where you can read more if you're interested, about the City of Inglewood, California and its ill-fated attempt to sue a YouTube critic on the basis that videos of its City Council meetings were protected by copyright. It didn't go well, and will probably get worse for Inglewood's taxpayers.
Adam Kutner1 is (apparently) a familiar face around Las Vegas. He's of the genus of lawyers with television advertisements, intoning soberly: "have you been injured in an accident?", as music likely reused from an episode of Unsolved Mysteries fills the background:
Kutner can empathize, because he's also been injured — online. And his new lawsuit is a good example of why Nevada's pretty-damn-good anti-SLAPP statute is important.
(note: nearly zero spoilers. perhaps actually zero.)
The three genres of the Mad Max trilogy
The interesting thing about the original Mad Max trilogy is that each movie belongs to an entirely separate genre. Mad Max is a 1970s biker film, Road Warrior is a western, and Thunderdome is NFL half-time show. In world-building, yes, they're all post-apocalyptic films (except for the first, which is perhaps during the very early stages of a grinding apocalypse), but genre conventions and associations matter a heck of a lot: they give us a structure to fit the pieces in to and a set of expectations about what comes next.
The original Road Warrior is, it's almost universally agreed, the best of the three, and I think the reason is not just the incredible visceral car chases and wrecks and stunts, but the western format. Echoing perhaps not only Star Wars and a bunch of Sergio Leone spaghetti, but the best western ever (Kurosawa's Seven Samurai) , the plot plays out like this: the drifter encounters a populace in need, insists that he's no hero, reluctantly is converted to serving the cause, and then – ronin-like – drifts away when the moment of need is over.
As a side note, the original Road Warrior also delivers on the important but unspoken requirement of a good western: good cinematography that displays a vast panoramic landscape. The shots where Max is looking down at the refinery camp and the desert looks so huge and empty under the infinite sky is breath taking. Later there's a second shot that always makes me catch my breath: the leaders of the refinery camp are deliberating under a single electric light against a wide purple sky. The juxtaposition of the small bright spark of technology (the first electric light we see in the entire movie, and, I think, the only one) against vast world gone dark is stunning.
Thunderdome sucked (although, after a re-watch recently, not as much as I'd once thought – it's actually the second best movie in the trilogy, and if only a few things were changed could be a lot better) for a lot of reasons, and one of them is that it departed from the Western genre for a Hollywood-ized, big-budget, campy halftime show.
Anyway, I take us down memory lane not merely for the sake of nostalgia, but as a jumping off point to explain Fury Road. Because until you understand what genre the movie is, you can't understand the movie.
A Western Super-Hero Movie
Fury Road has many of Road Warrior's strengths: it is at least half a western, and it is jam-packed with dangerous automotive mayhem.
Crucially, it did not make the same mistake as Thunderdome: taking its huge budget and using it for camp. Or, rather there are a few bits that could be campy in other contexts, but because they're so overwhelmed by gasoline, metal, and anger, they don't register as camp: one moment they're a distant dot on the horizon, and the next they're gone, behind, never to be seen again.
So, how well does Fury Road do as a Western? It does decently, but not great. The drifter arrives in town, he accidentally hooks up with the people in need, and he reluctantly agrees to help them. And then, at the end, like a tumbleweed, he drifts on. It checks all the Western boxes, but it does so perfunctorily, without passion …and, on one occasion, without a lot of sense.
Oh, and about the unspoken rule of good westerns? Yes, the amazing shots of the desert are there – boy are they there. But you knew that already, from the trailers.
If I had to put my finger on the one thing that disappointed me about Fury Road it was that it had a bit of superhero genre mixed in. In watching Road Warrior one feels concern for the protagonists and fear over their prospects. The villains are just real enough – one thinks that, yes, two years after the nukes fell and the gas ran out, the most brutal of the biker gangs and the renegade cops could have come to exactly this. In the first third of Road Warrior we see Humongous and his gang murder, rape, and loot outriders from the refinery camp, so we know exactly what they're capable of. Later, when our hero and his charges venture out into the wasteland and into conflict with the villains we know how it might very well end: the vehicles caught, destroyed, captives pulled out, brutally raped, and then crossbow-bolted when they're of no more use.
In contrast to this level of realism, Fury Road turns the dial one more, to eleven, for that push over the cliff. It was an inspired choice, in a way: I'm glad I saw these insane war rigs, I'm glad I saw the gouts of flame, the grenades, the spiked cars, the white skinned lunatics leaping off of moving vehicles to their certain deaths, and more. I've never seen anything like it before, and it was glorious.
…but necessarily, if you're serving up an apple, you're not serving up an orange.
The scale, the craziness, the everything – all at once, in every direction – is shocking, and aweing, and wonderful. …but because it's so much, and so hyper-real, the movie slips away from being a Western and into being a superhero movie. These villains are not what real biker gangs and real cops could have evolved into in the wasteland: these are comic book crazies. In the real world, no one would actually build these vehicles. No one would actually do these things. No one would actually set up this tribe or this economy.
…and thus, because it's so much larger than life, it is not life. In Blade Runner, when Deckard misses his jump at the very end of the movie and is hanging twenty stories above hard pavement I gulp, because the idea of falling twenty stories is a real one. I can picture it. My heart hammers. My palms sweat.
In Fury Road, when Max is standing on top of a war rig hurtling through the desert I'm mostly curious as to what will explode next. There is not a moment of fear about the shear insanity of standing on top of a moving vehicle doing sixty over rough terrain. Think about that: if you're anything like me, just standing on top of the tanker would scare you to the point of needing new underwear. Yet in Fury Road none of it seems real. The violence was glorious and picturesque and insane…but not once was it scary. …because not once was it real.
Fury Road is a superhero movie.
Who is the superhero?
Fury Road is odd. Unlike the previous films in the franchise, there's not one hero, there are two. And, in fact, Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa is at the center of the plot, and at the center of the heart of the film. She drives the action, she drives the truck, she drives the plot. This is a bit odd, given that the movie is called "Mad Max: Fury Road" and not "Imperator Furiosa: Fury Road", but what are you going to do?
That said, Max gets a lot of the action, and even if it's not 51%, there's more than enough to go around.
MRA boycott because Fury Road is feminist propaganda
Someone, I think Roosh V, has announced that Fury Road is feminist propaganda and should be boycotted. There are three reasons that I can think to call a boycott.
First, to put economic pressure on someone. Given the size of the movie industry and the size of the MRA world, I can't imagine that anyone thinks that this might work.
Second, to keep out badthink (the SJW tactic of blockbots, etc.). Say what you will about the MRAs, but I don't think that this is their style.
Third, to create a conspicuous cost to being a member of community, thus serving as an initiation ritual of sorts, and binding the members of the community together.
It's gotta be number three, right?
< shrug >
So, is Fury Road a feminist movie?
I can see why the MRAs say so. It does seem to go out of its way to hit a few feminist tropes – I felt like I was reading bad lesbian science fiction from the 70s once or twice.
Clan of wizened "wise women"? check.
…who live a simpler, more peaceful life? check.
…and have peaceful flower-power hippie names ("Initiating Mother", "Vuvalini of the Many Mothers", "Clan Swaddle Dog", etc.)
…and carry a bag of seeds with them, a symbol of the nurturing protective womb? check.
Pro-forma enunciation that women are not property? check.
Kick-ass heroine, because girls can be just as tough as guys? check.
So, yes, there is a bit of feminism shoe-horned awkwardly into the movie. But it's more silly than objectionable. And, in fact, conservatives will find a lot to chuckle over: the maguffin on the entire chase is the group of young breedable women…and yet not once does anyone suggest that they do anything other than breed. No, a just society, it seems, will still have these women cranking out babies…just under (heh) the good guys, and not the Ugly Old Coot.
Yes, but is Fury Road a feminist movie?
No. Not unless "blowing immense quantities of shit up in a vast barren desert" is a new form of feminism I'm unfamiliar with (and if it is, I promise to give feminism another look-see – that'd be a promising development).
To the degree it's got any ideology, it's about ethics in truck driving: "people should not be slaves, nor should they live under corrupt all-powerful kleptocratic dictatorships".
That strikes me as pretty damned libertarian.
Should you see it?
In the theater.
It's not the perfect movie. It's not even the perfect Mad Max movie. But it is a spectacle of the best kind, and there's no substitute for seeing it the way every western is meant to be seen: spread across a screen as huge as the desert itself.
So you wrote a blog post that you thought was really good, but somehow everyone missed it. Or you just got a good column published. Or your kid won the Hunger Games. Or your dog learned to shake hands. Or you got your name in the newspaper for rescuing a squirrel. Or you're up to something you think is cool.
Tell us in this thread! I declare that the cultural norms against boasting do not apply herein, to the extent they ever apply on the internet.
Please note this is not a thread about recriminations from other threads or places.
My wrong prediction
The other day my friend Ken asked me (and the other Popehat contributors) for feedback on his idea of blogging about his depression. He specifically wondered if various folks on the net would attack him for it.
I'm not a personal friend of Vox's, but I am an acquaintance (I have roughly as many political points of agreement with Vox as I do with Ken, so we run in the same circles, even if I'm not a card carrying member of the "Dread Ilk"), and I thought the idea that Vox would attack Ken for the post was a bit far fetched – I thought Vox wouldn't stoop to that level.
So I responded:
As someone who wrestled the black dog for a decade or more (thankfully, tho, not in the last 15 years or so), I'm a huge fan of your posts on this topic.
The cost of writing is centralized (your effort, your potential embarrassment (not that I think there's anything remotely embarrassing about it)) , and the benefit is widespread. Which is to say, in pure market terms, it's "not worth it" for you to write on the topic.
…but it makes the world a better place.
Re Vox: he's not a friend of mine, but he is an acquaintance. If he says shit, I'll rain hell-fire on him.
And then, after Ken put up his great post, I tweeted
1/ I really really REALLY hate it when someone opens up and a thousand people say "Oh, so brave!". …bc it's usually not remotely brave.
— ClarkHat (@ClarkHat) May 21, 2015
— ClarkHat (@ClarkHat) May 21, 2015
and I stand by that.
And now it turns out that Vox has – exactly as some expected, and exactly contrary to my own predictions – attacked Ken for the contents of his post.
The raining of hell-fire – a desire I don't have at the moment
I told Ken I'd rain hell-fire on Vox, but now that it comes down to it, I realize that I'm not angry – I'm sad. I'm not sad for Ken's sake – Ken is a big boy and can take a bit of name calling on the net. I'm sad because I thought Vox was made of better stuff.
Actually, I still do. Vox is a performance artist par excellence, but he's also a crisp thinker, and usually not a name-caller. He understands that the effect of deflating someone's argument through logic and facts is a thousand times better than calling them names.
…which isn't to say that Vox doesn't call names. He does. He often does it in a cutesy way where what he says is – technically – not name-calling. "I was just stating a fact – the guy is short, given the median height of Canadians, which is 5' 9.8" according to a UNESCO survey I'm linking to."
Vox does this, I think, because years of playing war games and fighting MMA has taught him a fair bit about tactics, and he realizes that these feints lead his opponents to – well, I could invoke some phrases from Clausewitz or Jomini, but, in the parlance of our times, "lose their shit" is appropriate and isn't overstating it – and then he can step back and point, shrug, and say "see what I mean?"
This may be good tactics, but I'm not in love with it, and – as someone who's got a decent measure of respect for Vox – I wish he wouldn't do it.
So, anyway, I'd like to explain why I respect Ken, why I respect Vox, and why I think that the politics of personal attack are uncool, and why I wish both my friend and my e-acquaintance wouldn't do it.
My friend Ken
I'm proud to call Ken a friend, and I only hope that I've earned enough of his respect so that he chooses to use the same word for me.
I've met a lot of impressive people in my time on the planet, and Ken is near the very top of the list. He's whip-smart, he's compassionate, he almost always sides with the underdog, he started out as a federal prosecutor but had the strength of character admit that maybe the other side had the better ethical argument, he built a law firm from scratch, he's a great family man – basically, I haven't come across an area where Ken is not devs above the mean.
– and, on a personal note, when I was deep deep in the shit once years ago, he answered the proverbial 3am phone call and saved my ass (full details some other time, but, if you think "subpoenas, a briefcase full of money, and expert advice on how much lime to use to dissolve a body", you're off in the right direction).
You can't buy loyalty like that, and if you could, you couldn't afford it.
And even I, who sing Ken's praises, was a bit surprised by his blog post the other day. Not surprised, overly, at the contents, but surprised at the balls he had to publish it, knowing that people would use it against him.
There's the old saw that bravery isn't the absence of fear: bravery is being afraid and doing the right thing anyway.
Ken's posts on depression help people – the most vulnerable and despised people out there: the sad sacks, the "slackers", the people who "just need to buck up and start getting shit done".
As I said in my forum post, quoted above, when Ken does one of these posts, the benefit accrues to dozens or hundreds of nobodies, and the the costs all land on Ken's shoulders.
And Ken does it anyway.
I'd like to be half the man Ken is some day.
My acquaintance Vox Day
Popehat.com is a civil liberties blog, and because Ken is fashionably, but discretely, left of center, the entire tone of the blog and of the readership averages left of center.
So, when I say "I've got a lot of respect for Vox Day", I expect to be met with hisses and boos.
Well fuck that shit: listen up, people.
Vox, like Ken, is a thoroughly impressive person. Back when most of us were farting around in college, Vox managed to bootstrap a band that cranked out some top-40 hits (amusing note: I actually picked up one of his band's CDs used about 20 years ago, a decade before I ever encountered the modern incarnation of Vox). Aside from music, Vox is also a very good fiction writer, putting many of his more respectable peers to shame. His organizational skills are fantastic, and he's bootstrapped not just his own online brand and followers, but mobilized them in a culture war against the SJWs for the control of the Hugo (a large blog post on this topic is half written, by the way). He's launched a science fiction publishing company seeming in his spare time, he's edited books, he's recruited top authors, and more. …and all of this in his spare time between doing game design, raising a family, and playing in a soccer league.
You can say that Vox's political opinions are terribly wrong. You can say that Vox is mean. You can say that he's cruel.
…but anyone who says that Vox is stupid, illogical, or lazy is just revealing themselves as either ignorant (the best case) or dishonest (the worst case).
If anyone hear thinks that Vox is dumb, I encourage you to hold your nose, read his blog for a week, and actually think about his arguments. You might think his axioms are wrong, but if you're honest with yourself, you won't think that his logic is flawed.
The Ken and Vox slap fight
I'm not exactly sure when the Ken and Vox started going at it, but my hunch is that Ken started it. I know that at least a few years ago Ken said something along the lines of "Vox looks like he gets his haircuts at the same place he got his lobotomy".
I really wish that when Ken wanted to attack someone's ideas, he just attacked their ideas, instead of making fun of them personally. But, as a wise man once said
@ClarkHat "Fucking fish, always swimming!"
— Popehat (@Popehat) May 23, 2015
Maybe that was the first slap in the fight. Maybe it was the 400th. But, yeah, my money is that Ken started this. And then Vox responded in kind.
But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Vox started it, and Ken responded in kind.
Anyway: I respect both of these guys, and I wish they wouldn't be dicks.
I'm going to respond to Vox's post, because it's handy.
First, I think that Vox is honest when he says:
Now, I don't wish disease of any kind on anyone. I never have and never will. I would very much like for everyone, even those who most hate me, to be healthy, happy, and well.
…but this is part of Vox's standard style, where all of the words of his posts are calm and unobjectionable, so when they're quote later they look like the most innocent things…but the overall gestalt is carefully engineered to provoke at an emotional level.
I admit that I've used exactly the same technique in my time. It's effective, it's clever – and on my better days, I think it's a bad thing. So, yes, I think Vox is telling the truth when he says this…but when this is sandwiched into a post that starts with the subject line "What part of 'cruelty artist' don't you understand?" and ends with the advice for Ken to get off the internet because, presumable, Ken is too fragile and delicate to handle the manly give-and-take of no-holds-barred intellectual action…well, I don't think one is really going out on a limb when one declares the whole bit of performance art a carefully designed bit of cruelty.
What is Vox trying to achieve with this post? What do we monkeys ever try to achieve in our social machinations? We intend to increase the status of ourselves and our teams, and we intend to mock, ridicule, and degrade the status of the opposing team.
So when Vox writes
When I read Ken's post about his breakdown and his struggles, my overwhelming impression was sheer bewilderment. He might as well have written it in Chinese for all that I related to it.
he's saying, translated into monkey code: "Sad pink Ken SJW team: girly, weak and uncool. Awesome blue Vox PUA team: benchpress, squat, awesome awesome hoo-ah!"
Well, I call bullshit.
Vox is pretty awesome (sorry, SJWs) in a bunch of ways.
…and Ken is pretty awesome in at least as many.
So I'm not buying into Vox's narrative. It takes a certain kind of moral strength to fight when outnumbered, when scorned by the establishment, when mocked by all the cool people (hat tip to Vox). But it takes a different and at least equally good kind of moral strength to voluntarily expose personal weakness, for no better reason than because the act of exposure helps others (hat tip to Ken).
And you know what? Ken isn't lacking in the first kind of bravery either. Look at him wade into the Vox's lion den.
A call to slap no more
All men are mortal. Socrates is a man.
– wait –
What I meant to say is: All human are sinners. I'm a human. Therefore I'm a sinner.
I've gotten catty on the internet. I've name called. I've mocked people for their personal traits instead of engaging with their arguments.
I think this is a crappy way to behave, and at least every now and then I promise myself I'll do better in the future.
Ken and Vox also get catty and engage in name-calling.
I wish they wouldn't.
I'm not going to call on either of them to apologize. Not only because I don't know who started the spat, but because "calls for apology" are a bullshit SJW tactic: they're a power play, implicitly promising absolution and forgiveness and return to the fold in return for ritual humiliation.
Neither Ken nor Vox need absolution from me, because they haven't sinned against me.
…and neither needs to, nor should, apologize to each other, because given our current caustic culture war, apologies are just status lowering struggle-session rituals.
Here's what I do suggest, not just for Ken and Vox, but for all of us:
That we examine our behaviors with regard to name calling, and that we examine our motivations.
For those of us who identify as Christian, I further suggest that we reflect on the definition of cruelty – "pleasure in causing pain and suffering".
I suggest that it is entirely reasonable for a Christian to engage in rigorous ideological warfare, even if this accidentally causes butt-hurt and bruises when pretty lies are destroyed.
…but it is not, I suggest, What Jesus Would Do, to take active delight in causing pain or suffering.
In my ideal world, ideological antagonists would fight bitterly with each other, but they would do so virtuously:
Prudence (φρόνησις, phronēsis): also described as wisdom, the ability to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time.
Justice (δικαιοσύνη, dikaiosynē): also considered as fairness, the most extensive and most important virtue.
Temperance (σωφροσύνη, sōphrosynē): also known as restraint, the practice of self-control, abstention, and moderation tempering the appetition.
Courage (ἀνδρεία, andreia): also named fortitude, forbearance, strength, endurance, and the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, and intimidation.
This is my modest proposal.
If you're somebody who supports privacy and freedom of conscience, do you think it's healthy for a republic to have a political media that digs up wrongthink statements by random nobodies, then amplifies the statements to expose the random nobodies to ridicule or financial ruin by thousands of angry strangers?
And if you've participated in such ridicule, do you feel better, months later, knowing that you helped cost that random nobody a job, all over a poorly expressed statement on the internet?
Recently some Twitter users have asserted that they are being defamed by Twitter "block bots."
Today a source provided me with a copy of the letter Judge Grendell sent to the editorial board of a local paper, the Plain Dealer, in response to a critical article.
To the Editorial Board ofCleveland.com,
As a constitutional oriented judge and legal scholar, I appreciate the First Amendment and the general right of free speech.
What tha blue fuck is a "constitutional oriented judge," other than an attempt to make me choke on my morning coffee?
Also, note the classic censor's rhetorical move: you always start saying you respect free speech. BUT . . . . [Edit: I am reminded that the technical term for this is "gertruding."]
But the right to free speech is not unlimited. Just as a person cannot stand up in a movie theater and yell "fire", a person has no constitutional right to falsely tell a party in an ongoing child protective custody case that the judge is mentally ill, does not follow the law, and should be "kicked" by that party. Such irresponsible and false speech is just as detrimental to the public welfare and the fair administration of our public justice system as the prohibited movie theater conduct is to public safety.
So much arglebargle.
First: "the right to free speech is not unlimited" is another typical censor's rhetorical move. It's a non sequitur. If you have relevant authority showing that this particular instance of speech is outside the protection of the First Amendment, cite it. Otherwise this is like saying, "well, there are some circumstances where I am allowed to shoot someone" when the cops come to arrest you for shooting your spouse.
Second: Stahhhhp. Staahhhhp with the hackneyed, misleading fire in a crowded theater reference. Protip: the legal analysis of anyone who references that Holmes line is not to be taken seriously.
Third, the generic and conclusory "detrimental to the public welfare and fair administration of our public justice system" is meritless for the reasons I explained yesterday. Most of the language he's complaining about is explicitly opinion and rhetorical hyperbole, and he hasn't come close to offering the sort of compelling evidence of actual disruption of justice required by three quarters of a century of Supreme Court precedent.
In the case in my court, involving the protection of a child in need ofjudicial intervention, Nancy McArthur's false speech encouraging a noncompliant party to continue to be disrespectful of the Court and noncompliant with Court orders was not protected speech. It was interference with a judicial proceeding and improperly impeded the protection of a child.
Judge Grendell's proposition seems to be that if a party to a case asks me about a judge, and I criticize the judge, I'm subject to a contempt order because I am encouraging disobedience. I invite Judge Grendell, with the assistance of a doctor holding a flashlight if necessary, to cite any authority supporting that proposition.
Confidentiality limitations prevent a discussion of any other facts, but suffice to say, the Plain Dealer's Editorial Board and Brent Larkin are mistaken as to both the facts and the law. This is particularly disappointing because the Court provided the newspaper with the correct information before it published its editorial.
Oddly, though the issue is so important to him, Judge Grendell cannot cite a single precedent supporting his unconstitutionally narcissistic view of his own contempt power. Ultimately this letter is reminiscent not of an analysis by a "legal scholar" but of a YouTube comment.
People like this decide on which of your rights the State will recognize.
I was asked by Ken, whom I esteem most highly and whose website "Pope Hat" is among the finest published today, to write a special guest contribution. I would like to thank Ken for this opportunity, and all of you, my most valued friends, for reading this important message.
Friends, what do you think of, when I mention the common American pony, or, as science calls it, Equus Maleficus? Like most, you probably think of fairgrounds and hayrides and smiling kids. Have you considered that behind the smiling mask that is Equus Maleficus, there lurks the grin of a hate-crazed demon? I swear it is true. I have been to the ceremonies. I have drunk the sacrificial offerings. I have spoken with the nameless devotees of the pony cult, high atop the barns, as the ponies circled below, feasting on the children, my ears ringing with the din of the screams, a din so shudderingly perverse as to shock the conscience of hardcore Satanists.
Make no mistake. Ponies are in league with Lucifer. After forty-three years of nightmare and terror, saved only by a desperate conviction to tell the truth, I am here to vouch for that which "sane" men fear to utter. There is reason to believe that the pony was in fact the beast which tempted Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, for do not ponies eat the apple, sweetest of all the harvest? Yes, the HARVEST. And at the Harvest, each May Eve and Walpurgisnacht, the robed, masked figures sit gibbering before their pony idols, chanting the chants and praying the prayers to their obscene gods, the ponies, who are well sated by the blood and flesh of the innocent, the virgins. The virgins, how their screams echo round the hills and valleys, as the ponies come to take their tribute. A tribute whose cost, over the centuries, must be reckoned with that taken by Adolf Hitler himself.
Yes. Adolf Hitler. None dare call it treason, and yet it is fact, cemented in stone, that the so-called Aryan unbermensch was a devotee, nay, a high priest, of the pony cult. And at the ceremonies, the shouts and cries of the Jewish children, ripped from their mothers' bosoms and fed to the ponies by hand, caused Father Martin Heinmuller, an early convert to Nazism, the public front of the pony cult, to faint on the spot, blood bursting from his ears in an astonishing orgy of woe. This was his testimony at Nuremberg, the testimony that led to the conviction and execution of Baldur Von Schirach, leader of the Hitler Youth and High Epopt of the pony cult.
These things have happened. Man must be prepared to accept notions of the cosmos, and of his own place in the seething vortex of time, whose merest mention is paralyzing. He must, too, be placed on guard against a specific lurking peril within, the pony, Equus Maleficus, which is the gateway to the door of death. Their hand is ever at your throat, though you see it not. "As a foulness shall ye know them." The pony is a spiritual corrupter, a ghost of fire made flesh, come to devour the good and the young. For was it not, as told in the Holy Qur'an, Al Rum, the pony that misled the Prophet Muhammad and deceived him into drinking the very wine of foulness?
Other examples, through religion and history, can be given. As for me, my time is short. The ponies come. I pray that this missive is heeded, though it be too late to save me from the gnawing teeth, the trampling hooves. Be on guard, lest they come for you.
Back in 2012 and 2013 I wrote about the saga of Craig Brittain and his revenge porn site "Is Anybody Down." The genesis of that series was Marc Randazza's discovery that the site was posting nude pictures and contact information, and someone calling themselves "David Blade III, takedown lawyer" was charging to "help" get the stuff taken down. All evidence suggested that David Blade never existed and that he was an invention of Craig Brittain, the operator of the site. In other words, it was an unusually despicable wire fraud and extortion scheme.
I counseled patience, because the system's wheels grind slowly. Finally we have a consequence to Brittain — of a sort.
The Federal Trade Commission — which was investigating Craig back in 2013 — has reached a settlement with him. The FTC had prepared an administrative complaint against Craig Brittain. That complaint shows that the FTC concluded several key points about Craig's practices. First this is their accusation about his methods of obtaining nude photos:
Respondent used three different methods to obtain photographs for the Website. First, Respondent encouraged and solicited individuals to submit, anonymously, photographs of other individuals with their intimate parts exposed for posting on the Website. Most submitters were men sending photographs of women. Respondent required that all submissions include at least two photographs, one of which had to be a full or partial nude, as well as the subject’s full name, date of birth (or age), town and state, a link to the subject’s Facebook profile, and phone number. Respondent received and compiled the photographs and personal information, posted them on the Website, and in some instances, Respondent posted additional personal information that he independently located about the subjects.
6. Second, Respondent posed as a woman on the Craigslist advertising website and, after sending other women photographs purportedly of himself, solicited photographs of them with their intimate parts exposed in return. If they sent such photographs, Respondent posted them on the Website without their knowledge or permission.
7. Third, Respondent instituted a “bounty system” on the Website, whereby anyone could request that others find and post photos of a specific person in exchange for a reward of at least $100. Respondent collected a “standard listing fee” of $20 for each request and half of all rewards given.
That contradicts Craig's various stories, which changed from day to day, but often centered around the claim "they consented."
Like everyone else who looked at the evidence, the FTC also concluded that Craig was David Blade III:
Respondent also advertised content removal services on the Website. In these advertisements, purported third parties identified as “Takedown Hammer” and “Takedown Lawyer” promised to have consumers’ content removed from the Website in exchange for a payment of $200 to $500. The advertisements referred interested consumers to the websites, www.takedownhammer.com and www.takedownlawyer.com, for further information. In fact, Respondent himself owned such websites, and posed as a third party to obtain money to remove the same photographs that he had posted on the Website.
11. Respondent earned approximately $12,000 from operating www.isanybodydown.com.
Craig has told many contradictory stories about David Blade, but he's always denied being him.
Craig settled this administrative complaint with the FTC. As far as I can tell he was not represented by counsel. Many people will find the terms of the settlement very unsatisfying. Craig admits no guilt. He doesn't go to jail. He doesn't pay any money. He does promise not to post nude pictures without the subjects' consent, and not to make misrepresentations about posting pictures online. He does have to destroy all the pictures and identity information he got while running the site. He also has to inform any employees or agents working with him on any web enterprise about the order. If he does anything else web-related, he has to turn over to the FTC at their demand a wide variety of information (privacy and consent policies, complaints, etc.) about the business. He has to tell the FTC for the next 10 years if he changes jobs, so they can watch what he's doing. And the terms of the order last 20 years.
A few thoughts about this based on my past dealings with the FTC:
1. This suggests the FTC determined he had no assets worth taking.
2. If he violates the order, the FTC can file against him in federal court. The resulting civil/administrative process only bears the most remote resemblance to due process. It will be ridiculously easy for the FTC to shut down and confiscate any new enterprise he starts for the next 20 years. The clients I've seen be most mercilessly and thoroughly screwed without pretense of fairness have been FTC defendants in federal court.
3. Craig Brittain is now subject to a permanent and relationship-and-career-debilitating stigma. Employers, lenders, landlords and others won't necessarily pick up internet drama. But you can bet that they'll pick up on an FTC consent order. Craig may want to change his name to something without such baggage, like maybe Pustule Nickelback McHitler III.
4. This doesn't prevent criminal prosecution. Nothing in the agreement shows any guarantee by the feds. The feds couldn't prevent state prosecution. Realistically, I think it means that federal prosecution is unlikely for past deeds. [I'd love to make a convincing argument here that this shows that he's about to be indicted, just to mess with his head. But I'm not a lowlife liar like Craig Brittain.] Federal prosecutors have limited resources and will likely see this as a resolution of any investigation. As for state prosecution, it's still possible given the applicable statute of limitations. A victim might take the FTC complaint and Craig's agreement to the locals and use it as incentive to go after him for fraud or extortion, as some locals are doing as we speak. If you are one of Craig's victims, and want help putting together a package to persuade locals, I'm happy to help.
However, be sure of this — if Craig Brittain ever gets up to bad behavior again, this result makes it much more likely that prosecutors will decide to spend resources on him.
Is this the end of the Craig Brittain saga? Not necessarily. But it's certainly an end to Craig Brittain ever being employable.
He'll have to spend his time at his new hobby — trying to insinuate himself into GamerGate, which for whatever reason he thought would be receptive.
Edit: Adam offers up a link-dense post tracing Craig's changing excuses and stories. That post is why you don't want Adam investigating you.
Second Edit: Apparently you can find Craig at this Twitter account. He's concerned about media ethics.