The Oatmeal, unfair critics and ink by the barrel

“Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel.”

That’s the old saying, which MediaBistro tried to update for the digital age. And it applies to people today who have popular sites — or worse, a lot of enablers. Hope Solo can just mention “haters” without being specific, and thousands of Twitter followers will mobilize against … someone.

That’s fine, as long as that power isn’t abused. With any form of power comes a line between proper use and abuse.

Now walking gingerly up to that fine line: The Oatmeal (Matt Inman), who has produced some of the funniest and most insightful comics on the web. Or before the web. Some hit me on a personal level — “Some thoughts and musings about making things for the web” is every web content creator’s life in a comic, and I’m walking proof that he nailed it with “Why working from home is both awesome and terrible.”

And you have to admire someone who not only writes and draws so well about cats and dogs but also produces a “Grammar Pack,” wonderfully illustrating the ways we literally misuse the English language.

When he faced a nuisance suit, he cleverly turned the tables on the lawyer pursuing him, seeking tens of thousands of dollars for charity but ending up with hundreds of thousands. of dollars for charity

The Oatmeal has stumbled into another controversy, this time over gratuitous use of the word “rape.” That led to a clumsy hit piece at Buzzfeed, which found an alleged profile page of Inman’s and ran with it. Oops. He’s not married, and he has no kids. (Also, Buzzfeed writer Jack Stuef somehow thought Inman was a Republican.)

So Inman, in the same style as his lawsuit response, shredded Stuef’s piece and Stuef himself on his blog, again proving that no one should make an enemy of Inman.

Roughly 90 percent of Inman’s piece is wholly justified, and most of the reaction on Twitter is along the lines of “Huh, yeah, take that, you stupid Buzzfeed writer.”

But is Inman going to get a complex from his two takedowns of his critics? And couldn’t he offer a more sincere mea culpa for the initial rape joke? Inman knows the Internet — he surely knows people have been excoriated (or fired) for better-intentioned rape comments than that. (Right, UFC fans?) You just don’t compare everyday things to rape. If you do, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad guy — it just means you need to learn not to do that.

Betabeat and Salon have questioned Inman’s response. So far, their comments sections haven’t exploded.

We’ve seen one talented comic artist, Scott Adams, go down a bad road. Dilbert is, by any measure, a terrific comic strip. Unfortunately, Adams decided that his success with Dilbert meant he was some sort of guru. He began to pontificate about things with which he had passing knowledge (the workplace) and things with which he had no knowledge (intelligent design, “men’s rights.”) Now Adams is pretty much at war with academics like PZ Myers.

Inman probably won’t go down that road. He seems to have a firmer grasp of life outside an office cubicle. But a little dose of humility never hurt anyone, even when you’re answering critics who haven’t done the slightest bit of accurate research. Others’ imperfections don’t make you perfect.

cynicism, web

Want to get famous? Sue The Oatmeal!

It’s an old story:

1. Lawyer reviews Aggregation Site, finds that Creative Site has complained about Aggregation Site’s copyright infringement.

2. Lawyer demands Creative Site send Aggregation Site $20,000, or else we’ll all to court.

3. Creative Site tells lawyer to stuff it, deciding instead that he’s going to raise $20,000 for charity. He ends up raising 10-11 times that much.

4. Lawyer sues Creative Site, not on behalf of Aggregation Site but on his own accord, claiming “cyber-vandalism.”

5. Entire Internet convulses with laughter.

6. Lawyer drops suit. (Ars Technica | TechCrunch)

7. Lawyer claims victory, saying he’s now famous. (By that standard, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton worked extremely hard to gain their places in the public eye.)

There was a hint of Lawyer Charles Carreon’s strategy in this Washington Post blog post June 18: “Carreon tells Comic Riffs one of his goals is to become the go-to attorney for people who feel they have been cyber-vandalized or similarly wronged on the Internet.”

As we’ve seen in the media, it doesn’t matter if 98% of the people who know your name think ill of you. As long as the other 2% give you money.

So should we mention that Carreon’s site includes a questionable framing of the Mercury News site?

comedy, creativity, web

The Oatmeal doesn’t take the law into his own hands – he takes it to charity

It’ll be difficult to sum up the case of FunnyJunk v The Oatmeal any better than The Oatmeal does. It’s your standard “cartoonist complains about work being stolen, accused content thief gets all huffy, cartoonist laughs a little and lets it go, accused content thief threatens defamation suit” story.

That post is a must-read, mostly because it contains The Oatmeal’s entire defense (in one word, truth, but that’s not as amusing, and The Oatmeal includes things like “evidence” and “rebuttals that show a basic understanding of how the Web works”). Instead of paying the $20,000 that the lawyer demands, The Oatmeal decides to hold a fund-raiser to get a bunch of money and split it between the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society. Those two charities must be ecstatic today.

So how have the titans of new media responded? Let’s see who sides with The Oatmeal: Boing Boing, Uproxx, Gawker … and FunnyJunk commenters. That could hurt.

The second must-read in this case, though, is from the TODAY show’s Digital Life blog. They got comments not only from The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman) but FunnyJunk’s lawyer, Charles Carreon. (Shouldn’t the lawyer in this case be named Vulture rather than Carreon?) Mr. Carreon has carved out quite a career in Internet law, and yet he is stunned by the legions of people who have sent him nasty email.

(Even though, if you read the original Oatmeal summation of this case, you’ll find that FunnyJunk readers did exactly the same thing to Inman.)

Does this sort of legal reasoning, which seems peculiarly ignorant to those with an ounce of knowledge in this area, hold water in court? Don’t ask me — I covered the Borislow-WPS case.

(Please pardon the shoutout to The People’s Court in the headline. Yes, I know it’s a stretch.)