Charles Carreon: Popehat.com, by Kenneth Paul White

Charles Carreon: Popehat.com, by Kenneth Paul White

Postby admin » Mon Jan 06, 2014 9:51 pm

Charles Carreon: Popehat.com
by Kenneth Paul White

The learned men of old, I reflected, knew what they were talking about when they envisaged and portrayed Fortune as totally blind; It is invariably on the wicked and undeserving, I thought, that she bestows her favours; her choices are never grounded on reason, indeed she goes out of her way to frequent the company of those she ought to avoid like the plague if she could see. And the worst of it is that she distributes reputation so capriciously, indeed downright perversely: the evildoer glories in the character of a man of virtue and the innocent is punished like a criminal. Here was I, cruelly attacked and transformed by her into the shape of a beast, and one of the lowest sort at that, reduced to a condition which might inspire grief and pity in my worst enemy, accused of robbing a dear friend and host -- indeed parricide would be a more accurate name for it than robbery. And I was not in a position to defend myself or to utter a single word of denial. However, I thought that if I stayed silent when such a heinous charge was brought against me in my presence, it might seem that I assented to it because I had a guilty conscience. This I could not endure, and I tried at least to call out 'No, I didn't do it!' The 'No' I did utter again and again at the top of my voice, but the rest I couldn't manage; try as I might to round out the vigorous vibration of my hanging lips, I couldn't get beyond the first word and just went on braying 'No, no'. But what is the point of stringing out complaints against the perversity of Fortune? ...

However, Fortune's appetite for tormenting me was unappeased, and she now visited me with a fresh plague. I was told off to carry wood down from the mountain, and the boy who was put in charge of me was without question the most objectionable specimen of boyhood there ever was. Not only did I exhaust myself climbing the steep slopes of the mountain and wear out my hooves traversing its sharp-edged rocks; I was so incessantly thrashed by blow after blow from his stick that the pain of the cuts penetrated the marrow of my bones. By perpetually aiming his blows at one particular place on my right flank he split the skin and opened up a gaping sore -- a pit, a crevasse; and still went on beating the wound until it ran with blood. He piled such a weight of faggots on my back that you'd have thought it a load for an elephant rather than an ass. And whenever the load became unbalanced and slipped sideways, instead of relieving me by removing some faggots from the heavier side and so taking off some of the pressure, as he should have done, or at least evening up the load by transferring them to the other side, his remedy for the imbalance was to pile stones on top. As if these tribulations were not enough, the size of my load still did not satisfy him; huge though it was, when we had to cross the stream which ran alongside the road, to save his boots from a wetting he would jump up and perch on my back -- a trivial addition, I suppose he thought, to my enormous burden. The river bank was muddy and slippery, and from time to time I would overbalance under my load and go down in the mire. A good driver would have lent a hand, would have held me up by the bridle or hauled me up by the tail, or at least taken off some of my vast load until I could get to my feet again. Not he: so far from offering to help me in my exhaustion, he would beat every inch of me with his great stick, starting at my head and not forgetting my ears, until his blows acted as a kind of medical treatment to get me up again.

Yet another torture did he devise for me. He made up a bunch of thorns with formidably sharp and poisonous prickles and fastened it to my tail to hang there and torment me, so that as I walked it would swing about and hurt me cruelly with its deadly spikes. So either way I was in trouble. If I put on speed to escape his savage blows, the thorns pricked me harder than ever; and if I slowed down for a moment to ease the pain, I was thrashed into a gallop once more. This detestable boy seemed to have no other object in life but to finish me off one way or another, and indeed he more than once threatened and swore to do just that. Then something happened to goad his abominable malice to fresh lengths. One day he was behaving so outrageously that my patience gave way and I let fly at him with a vigorous kick. This was what he then planned to do to me. He loaded me with a large bundle of tow which he roped tightly to my back, and then drove me on to the road. He then helped himself to a burning coal from the first farm he came to and pushed it into the middle of my load. In a moment the loose mass had ignited and burst into flame, enveloping me in its lethal heat with no apparent hope of escaping from the fatal menace or of saving my life; a fire like that allows no delay or time to think things over. In this calamity Fortune for once smiled on me; no doubt she was saving me for future dangers, but now at least she delivered me from instant and certain death. Catching sight of a muddy pool of water from yesterday's rain by the roadside, without stopping to think I plunged into it head over ears. Then, when the flames were finally extinguished, I emerged, relieved of my load and delivered from destruction. But that dreadful boy had the effrontery to blame his vile deed on me, telling all his fellow herdsmen that I had stumbled on purpose when passing the neighbour's stove and had deliberately set myself on fire, adding with a laugh, 'So how long are we going to go on wasting fodder on this salamander of an ass?'

Only a few days later he played an even worse trick on me. Having sold the wood I was carrying at a nearby cottage he was leading me back unloaded when he started to proclaim that he could no longer cope with my wicked ways and that he had had enough of such a thankless task. This was the style of the complaint that he had concocted: 'Look at this ass -- lazy, idle, too asinine to be true. On top of all the other shocking things he's done, now he's getting me into fresh trouble and danger. Every time he sees a passer-by, whether it's a pretty woman, a young girl, or a handsome boy, in a second he's sent his load flying, and often his saddle as well, and makes a mad rush at them -- a lover like this in search of a human mate! Slavering with desire, he hurls them to the ground as he attempts to indulge his unlawful pleasures and unspeakable lusts, urging them to bestial unions while Venus looks away in horror. He even distorts his shameless mouth into a parody of a kiss as he butts and bites his victims. These goings-on are likely to involve us in serious lawsuits and quarrels, and probably criminal prosecutions as well. Only just now, catching sight of a respectable young woman, he threw off his load of wood and scattered it all over the place, went for her in a frenzy and had her down in the mud, did Our merry philanderer, and then and there in full view of everybody did his level best to mount her. It was only because some passers-by were alarmed by her screams and rushed to the rescue that she was freed and pulled out from right under his hooves; otherwise the unhappy woman would have been trampled and torn apart -- an agonizing end for her and the prospect of the death penalty as her legacy to us.'

These lies he interspersed with all sorts of other stories, all the more galling to me because I had to stay modestly silent. They aroused in the herdsmen a violent determination to do for me. 'Let's make a sacrifice of this public husband,' said one, 'this adulterer to the community; that's what his monstrous marriages deserve. Come on, young fellow,' he added, 'cut his throat here and now, throw his guts to the dogs, and keep the meat for the workforce's dinner. We'll sprinkle his skin with ash and dry it to take back to our masters; we can easily pretend that he was killed by a wolf.'

Without more ado my delinquent accuser constituted himself executioner of the herdsmen's sentence, and gleefully mocking my misfortunes and still resenting my kick -- how I regretted that it hadn't been more effective! -- started to whet a sword. But one of the rustics in the crowd intervened. 'It would be a shame,' he said, 'to kill such a fine ass and lose his labour and valuable services by passing this sentence on his amatory excesses. If we castrate him, that will put paid to his lovemaking for good and relieve you of all fear of danger, and he'll be much the stouter and stronger for it. I've known not merely many idle asses but lots of very unruly horses with an excessive sexual drive which made them wild and unmanageable, but after this operation they at once became tame and docile, quite suitable as pack-animals and submissive to any other kind of work. So, unless you strongly disagree, give me a day or two -- I've got to be at the next market meanwhile -- to fetch the instruments I need for the operation from home and come straight back to you; then I'll whip this nasty brute of a lover's thighs open and take out his manhood, and you'll find him as meek and mild as an old bell-wether.'

By this decision I was snatched from the hands of Orcus, but only to be reserved for a fate almost worse. I began to lament and mourn myself as dead -- for that was what I should be without my latter end. So I started to look round for ways of destroying myself, by a hunger-strike or jumping off a cliff -- I'd still be dead, but at least I'd be dead in one piece. I was still undecided about my choice of ending when the next morning that assassin of a boy once more led me up the mountain by the usual route. He tied me to a branch that hung down from a huge ilex, while he climbed a little way up above the path with a hatchet to cut the wood he had to fetch. At that moment there emerged from a nearby cave the huge towering head of a deadly she-bear. The instant I saw her I panicked; terrified by this sudden apparition I reared back with the whole weight of my body on my hind legs and my head high in the air, snapped my tether, and took off at top speed. Headlong and hell for leather downhill I went, hurling myself bodily through the air with my feet hardly touching the earth, until I reached the level ground below; all I wanted was to escape that monster of a bear and that even worse monster of a boy.

-- The Golden Ass, or Metamorphoses, by Apuleius, translated by E.J. Kenney


Table of Contents:

1. Hey, Did Somebody Say Something Was Going On With The Oatmeal? (6/12/12)
2. How Dare You! That's The Wrong Kind of Bullying! (6/13/12)
3. The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part III: Charles Carreon's Lifetime-Movie-Style Dysfunctional Relationship With the Internet (6/15/12)
4. The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part IV: Charles Carreon Sues Everybody (6/17/12)
5. The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part V: A Brief Review of Charles Carreon's Complaint (6/19/12)
6. The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part VI: The Electronic Frontier Foundation Steps In (6/21/12)
7. Update: Charles Carreon Files First Amended Complaint (6/25/12)
8. The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk: Request For Pro Bono Help In Bay Area (6/27/12)
9. The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part VII: Charlie The Censor Files A Motion (6/30/12)
10. Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part VIII: Charles Carreon Gets Sued, Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen Joins The Fray (7/2/12)
11. Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Chapter IX: Charles Carreon Dismisses His Lawsuit (7/3/12)
12. The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part X: Philanthropy > Douchebaggery (7/9/12)
13. Innocently, And With No Intent To Cause Any Mischief Whatsoever (7/26/12)
14. The Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk, Part XI: What Remains (9/10/12)
15. The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part XII: Brave Sir Charlie Ran Away (10/18/12)
16. In Which Charles Carreon Says Mostly True Things About Me In A Footnote (3/20/13)
17. Charles Carreon Encounters Actual Legal Consequences (4/12/13)
18. In Which I Offer Apologies (8/3/13)
19. An Open Letter to Charles Carreon (8/7/13)
20. Comments
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Re: Charles Carreon: Popehat.com, by Kenneth Paul White

Postby admin » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:02 pm

Hey, Did Somebody Say Something Was Going On With The Oatmeal?
Jun 12, 2012
By Ken White.
Effluvia

Note: our entire series of posts about the Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk situation is now complied under the Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk tag.

Yesterday afternoon, I started getting tweets and emails (to both my work and Popehat accounts) and Facebook messages tipping me to a bogus-lawsuit-threat-on-the-internet story. As of this writing I have received thirty-one tips and suggestions that I offer pro bono help to the recipient of the threat. For a while I was tempted to regard this as a reflection of my own notorious puissance, and my look-at-me-I'm-the-fucking-BATMAN attitude grew until it threatened to collapse into a noisy singularity of self-regard.

Then I realized: the flood of mail is not a reflection of me. The flood of mail is a reflection of The Oatmeal being unspeakably awesome. I'm just the towel-boy they shout for to wipe the glistening beads of asskickery from The Oatmeal's noble brow.

Turns out I'm OK with that.

People were writing me because they know, from reading this or this, or from seeing the Popehat signal, or from posts sparring with bogus-lawsuit-threateners, that I offer and coordinate pro bono help for bloggers faced with bogus defamation threats. The Oatmeal, unfortunately, is now the victim of such a threat.

No, wait. That's really not fair. Strike "victim" and "unfortunately."

The Oatmeal has responded to the legal threat in stand-up-and-cheer fashion. Go read it.

Here's the bullet. There's a site called FunnyJunk. FunnyJunk lets its users post amusing things they find elsewhere, like videos and pictures and cartoons. Given the sort of people who hang out on FunnyJunk — a crowd I shall describe later — much of what is posted there is other people's work, scraped and slapped up without permission or attribution. FunnyJunk — which makes money from the advertising on its site, and gets traffic based on what is posted by its users on its site — maintains that it does not support such conduct and that it responds to copyright notices. Last year The Oatmeal called bullshit on this model, and FunnyJunk and its flying monkeys responded in classic passive-aggressive, whiny-entitled, mommy-mommy-he-beat-me-twice-at-Counterstrike-it's-not-FAIR form.

So. This week, The Oatmeal got a bogus legal threat from Charles Carreon, ATTORNEY AT LAW. Mr. Carreon was involved in the sex.com case some time ago, a fact he conceals in roughly the same way that Al Bundy conceals that he used to play football for Polk High. Mr. Carreon threatens a federal lawsuit for defamation and false advertising under the Lanham Trademark Act [sic]. He does so based on the fiction that FunnyJunk is "a competitor of the Oatmeal in the field of online humor." This is true in the sense that Sting is in competition with the homeless busker singing "Englishman in New York" in the subway. I can't do justice to The Oatmeal's explanation of why the claims are factually bogus. I will note, however, that Mr. Carreon and FunnyJunk are by far the first people to try the "you named me when you said mean things about me; that's a trademark violation" gambit in a creative-like-a-preschooler-with-paste-and-glitter attempt to evade the protections of the First Amendment. Courts are increasingly getting wise to this attempt to abuse trademark law to chill free speech. I'd explain more, but I'd prefer for FunnyJunk and Mr. Carreon to enjoy a voyage of legal discovery themselves at the appropriate juncture.

Mr. Carreon, by the way, demanded that The Oatmeal take down its criticism, and demanded the sum of TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. The Oatmeal, instead, solicited money for wildlife and for cancer research, and has already reaped five times his $20k ask. Thus The Oatmeal in the space of 24 hours has already accomplished more for humanity than the collective members of FunnyJunk could do in a lifetime, even if that lifetime terminated immediately by a collective donation of vital organs to what presumably would be an extremely lax and non-judgmental medical facility.

The dispute led me to examine FunnyJunk. I found quite a few unattributed images that other people had created and posted elsewhere. I found people supporting The Oatmeal by saying that the FunnyJunk moderator was acting like "a Jew." I found people demanding to have The Oatmeal situation explained to them briefly; people too lazy to click links; people who would need others to provide them with an executive summary of a lolcat caption. I found people angry at The Oatmeal because they are entitled — not only to free content, not only to free content they can reach instantly on the internet, but entitled to their free content served directly to their cheeto-dusted fingers at their favorite ass-ugly hangout by their good pal, user nigg3rzsuklol. FunnyJunk appears to be broken into three categories: (1) a few normal people who are unchoosy about where they view their reheated memes; (2) unloved and unwashed twelve-year-old boys, steeped in the internet tradition of poseur nihilism, the sort of twelve-year-old boys you hope will not hang out with your children, the sort of twelve-year-old-boys from the neighborhood who seem utterly unsupervised, unfed, and grimier than a crack-den's doorstep, the sort of twelve-year-old boys who inspire a secret and guilty sigh of relief and satisfaction when they are sent away to a secure "academy" and thereafter are only seen lurking, oddly dressed and glaze-eyed, in the back of family pictures; and (3) people whose lives are so unutterably sad that they feel cooler by hanging out with group (2).

So I guess what I'm saying is that I back The Oatmeal in this fight.

It's not going to go well for FunnyJunk. Even if the threat letter wasn't simply stagecraft — a big assumption — they're going to get curb-stomped in court, whether in initial motion practice or in a proctological discovery campaign waged by free-speech-supporting pro-bono lawyers (let's just say I'm not the only one offering to help). Their lawyer has just given himself +eleventy in "censorious twatwaffle" on Klout, and the Streisand Effect is looming.

Pack it up and go home, FunnyJunk. This isn't going to turn out well for you.

Edited To Add: Marc Randazza, whose First Amendment credentials are extraordinary, and who has routinely stood up against thuggish threat letters, has this to say about Mr. Carreon:

I have known Charles for a few years, and know him to be one of the good guys. I did ask him "what the fuck were you thinking?" when I first saw his letter.

I think he just made a judgment error, which is different from saying that this event exposes a latent character flaw. I've never known him to do anything like this before, and I am prepared to give him a First Amendment mulligan. Let he who has never fucked up before cast the first stone. Well, ok, cast stones even if you have fucked up — since he might have asked for it and he can likely handle it, but I ask everyone to try and remember that Charles has been on the right side of the good fight far more times than he's been on the wrong side. On balance, he's one of the good guys, and I think he's engaging in some valuable self-reflection right now — which is itself a sign that he is one of the good guys.


This doesn't change my evaluation of the letter in question. But Marc's word is worth a lot with me, and I recognize that anyone — perhaps especially a lawyer — can take a very wrong-headed approach to something on a bad day.

Second Edit: OK, with all respect to Marc, I take back my charitable thoughts based on his words about Charles Carreon. According to MSNBC:

Carreon tells me that Inman's blog post was interpreted as a complaint — similar to a DMCA takedown notice — and that the content the cartoonist listed in it was removed from the FunnyJunk website promptly. He also explains that he believes Inman's fundraiser to be a violation of the terms of service of IndieGoGo, the website being used to collect donations, and has sent a request to disable the fundraising campaign. (The fundraising website has only responded with an automated message so far.)


So, The Oatmeal tried to turn this into something good — something that would benefit wildlife protection and cancer research — and Charles Carreon had a snit and tried to shut it down because it was embarrassing to him and his client?

Fuck him. He's vermin. He's not forgivable. Let any good he has ever done be wiped out. Let the name "Charles Carreon" be synonymous with petulant, amoral censorious douchebaggery.

(Sorry, Marc.)

Third Edit: In fairness to Marc, I gave him a shot at amending his prior statement, which he did:

Despite my earlier charitable comments, I can not find any words to defend trying to shut the fundraiser down. I can't even gin up a minor benefit of the doubt on that one. I can see an ill-considered demand as a mistake in judgment while hoping to gain an advantage for your client. But taking a shot at the fundraiser would not do that – it would just be lashing out to hurt bears and cancer patients? Holy fucking shitballs inside a burning biplane careening toward the Statue of Liberty, Captain! I hope that the reporter merely got the story wrong, because if not, that's more fucked up than a rhino raping a chinchilla while dressed up in unicorns' undergarments.


Fourth Update: In in this follow-up post I critique Carreon's suggestion that his letter was not bullying, but making fun of it is.

Fifth Edit:Welcome, really alarmingly large number of Darths & Droids
readers. We are Star Wars geeks here, though we more often write about free speech and abuse of the legal system and stuff. To prove our bona fides, and show the connection between your favored topics and ours, the talented PencilBloke made you a drawing:

Image

Sixth Edit: OK, our legal department is insisting that I make clear that I am not claiming that Charles Carreon is in Ewok. As far as I know, he is not. He actually more reminds me of JarJar. I'm not saying that FunnyJunk is an Ewok either. It's more like the Sarlacc Pit.

Seventh Edit: More ligitious Ewoks:

Nathan Burney's Ewok achieves personal service whilst on meth:

Image

Gretchen Koch's Ewok is better dressed than I am. Not that that's a high bar, most days:

Image
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Re: Charles Carreon: Popehat.com, by Kenneth Paul White

Postby admin » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:05 pm

How Dare You! That's The Wrong Kind of Bullying!
Jun 13, 2012
By Ken White.
Law, Law Practice

Note: our entire series of posts about the Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk situation is now complied under the Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk tag.

The most astonishing thing about Charles Carreon — the attorney whose ill-considered threat is at the heart of the Oatmeal/FunnyJunk debacle I wrote about yesterday — is that the man markets himself as an internet lawyer.

Yet Charles Carreon seems mystified by the most basic elements of internet culture that even the rawest YouTube-watching tyro could explain. For instance, he seems taken aback by the notion that sending a smug lawsuit threat to a professionally snarky and frequently cheerfully vulgar online cartoonist with a rabid following could lead to the public relations catastrophe he now faces. Carreon sounds notes of wounded innocence in his interview with MSNBC:

"I really did not expect that he would marshal an army of people who would besiege my website and send me a string of obscene emails," he says.

"I'm completely unfamiliar really with this style of responding to a legal threat — I've never really seen it before," Carreon explains. "I don't like seeing anyone referring to my mother as a sexual deviant," he added, referencing the drawing Inman posted.


If this were an 80-year-old probate lawyer, I could write this off as culture shock. But in a self-described "internet lawyer," this failure to anticipate the natural and probable consequences of such a legal threat in such a subculture was nothing less than incompetence — a grave departure below the standard of care. Regrettably it's all too common. Lawyers send threats to silence critics without any apparent consciousness of the Streisand Effect — without understanding, as any minimally competent attorney in this arena would, that such threats will naturally lead to several orders of magnitude more people hearing about the complained-about content, and also to a much more negative view of the client. The questions are clear: have these lawyers heard of the Streisand Effect? Do they counsel their clients about the likely impact of their legal threats? If not, how do their clients react later when they find out the hard way?

But Charles Carreon's sin is not merely one of willful ignorance. He's also guilty of wretched hypocrisy.

"It's an education in the power of mob psychology and the Internet," Carreon told me.


Charles Carreon likes and supports one type of bullying — the type that makes money for him, the type he is licensed by the State Bar to use — but hates and condemns another kind, the kind that doesn't make him money, the kind that any sort of rube who never went to law school can employ.

See, a legal threat like the one Charles Carreon sent — "shut up, delete your criticism of my client, give me $20,000, or I'll file a federal lawsuit against you" — is unquestionably a form of bullying. It's a form that's endorsed by our broken legal system. Charles Carreon doesn't have to speak the subtext, any more than the local lout has to tell the corner bodega-owner that "protection money" means "pay of we'll trash your shop." The message is plain to anyone who is at all familiar with the system, whether by experience or by cultural messages. What Charles Carreon's letter conveyed was this: "It doesn't matter if you're in the right. It doesn't matter if I'm in the wrong. It doesn't matter that my client makes money off of traffic generated from its troglodytic users scraping content, and looks the other way with a smirk. It just doesn't matter. Right often doesn't prevail in our legal system. When it does, it is often ruinously expensive and unpleasant to secure. And on the way I will humiliate you, delve into private irrelevancies, harass your business associates and family, disrupt your sleep, stomp on your peace of mind, and consume huge precious swaths of your life. And, because the system is so bad at redressing frivolous lawsuits, I'll get away with it even if I lose — which I won't for years. Yield — stand and deliver — or suffer."

Our system privileges Charles Carreon to issue that threat, rather than jailing or flogging him for it. And so Carreon supports bullying like that. He's got a license to do it. He knows that his licensed threats — coming, as they do, on the [slightly odd] letterhead of a lawyer — inspire far more fear and stress than the complaints of a mere citizen, and by God he plays it to the hilt.

By contrast, Charles Carreon doesn't like shows of force that you or I can muster. "I'm completely unfamiliar really with this style of responding to a legal threat," he sniffs. There's a whiff of Paul Christoforo of Ocean Marketing in there — the sentiment "how was I to know that I was picking on someone stronger than I am? Is that fair?" But what he means is "if the people I threaten don't have to dig into their pockets to go hire a lawyer, and spend unpleasant hours with that lawyer, and lay awake at night worrying, and rely on a lawyer who is part of my privileged culture, but can stand up for themselves . . . how can I intimidate them so easily?" Perhaps some rude Oatmeal followers did actually send true threats or abuse to Charles Carreon's office — which I condemn. That's morally wrong and not helpful to the cause of free speech; it's harmful. But I fail to see why Charles Carreon sending that threat letter is more legitimate, admirable, or proper than ten thousand Oatmeal fans sending back the message that Charles Carreon is a petulant, amoral, censorious douchebag. It doesn't take lawyers, it doesn't take law school, it doesn't take any special privilege conferred by the state — it only takes a robust right of free expression — sending it back by blogging it, tweeting it, posting it on Facebook, and posting it in comments on forums. Charles Carreon has power derived from an inadequate legal system and letters of marque from the State Bar; The Oatmeal has the power of goodwill and community respect earned by talent. There's no reason to exalt Carreon's power and condemn The Oatmeal's.

Not everyone agrees, and Charles Carreon's whine of "mob psychology" is a cri de coeur to the contrarians: the people who think the Streisand Effect is too mean, who sympathize with Joseph Rakofsky over the people he sued for criticizing him, the people who sympathize with Crystal Cox even when she attacks the children of her opponents. Let's not let these people — who would like us meekly to pick up our phones and call our lawyers and start dishing out money and submit to the law's delay — detain us. (Professional contrarians would probably find a way to criticize The Oatmeal for calling out Charles Carreon, whilst simultaneously excusing FunnyJunk for sending its flying monkeys to abuse The Oatmeal when its proprietor complained last year.)

I'm not saying the law has no value. It does. The rule of law is important — especially in resisting the powerful. And getting legal advice is a good thing. Those are reasons that I encourage lawyers to offer pro bono help to bloggers hit with bogus legal threats. But the internet can help shift the balance of power away from professional bullies like Charles Carreon to the people they bully. Let it be so. Don't threaten violence, and expel and condemn those who do. Don't engage in actual harassment — like abusive telephone calls — or endorse those who do. Do get legal advice when you can. But name and shame. Call out censorious thuggery. Stand up against FunnyJunk and Charles Carreon and their ilk by writing about them and spreading the word about them. And if they can dish it out but can't take it? Tough shit.

Edit to add: from commenter desconhecido, a hilarious and ironic blast from Carreon's past: "Please don’t take me for a copyright hawk, but this seems like a ruling that benefits a company that has made a habit of turning other people’s work into their payday, and is being encouraged to keep on doing it."

Second Edit: Randazza has a link to The Oatmeal's attorney's response letter, which is quite good.

158 Comments
Free Speech, Lawyers Behaving Badly, Legal Threats, Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk
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Re: Charles Carreon: Popehat.com, by Kenneth Paul White

Postby admin » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:11 pm

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part III: Charles Carreon's Lifetime-Movie-Style Dysfunctional Relationship With the Internet
Jun 15, 2012
By Ken White.
Effluvia

Note: our entire series of posts about the Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk situation is now complied under the Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk tag.

In Part One, I praised The Oatmeal's awesome response to a frivolous, censorious, thuggish demand letter from attorney Charles Carreon on behalf of FunnyJunk. In Part II, I wrote about how Charles Carreon likes the type of bullying he is licensed to practice but not the type that any dope with an AOL account can pursue.

Recent developments merit comment.

First, Mr. Carreon altered his personal web site, leaving a notice that it was down "due to security attacks instigated by Matt Inman," the author of The Oatmeal. This caused much I'm-an-internet-lawyer speculation about whether the accusation against Mr. Inman is defamatory. My opinion based on experience litigating First Amendment issues: probably not. It can be read literally, as claiming (falsely, based on the evidence) that The Oatmeal specifically instructed readers to commit "security attacks" against Mr. Carreon. It can also reasonably be read to assert "I'm butthurt because The Oatmeal said mean things about me, and some of his readers read his description of my behavior and as a result attacked my website." To generalize briefly, if the statement is reasonably susceptible to a non-defamatory meaning, then it's not defamatory. That, by the way, is one of the reasons that Mr. Carreon's original demand letter was frivolous.

Second, Mr. Carreon changed his web site again. At the moment it redirects to a site offering a free download of his book, headed with a slowly cycling and somewhat creepifying message, one line at a time:

TO THE PEOPLE OF THE INTERNET
PLEASE ACCEPT THIS GIFT, WHICH IS ALL THAT I HAVE TO GIVE
THIS IS THE ONLY BOOK I HAVE WRITTEN, AND I WROTE IT FOR YOU
THANK YOU FOR COMING, WHATEVER BROUGHT YOU HERE
PLEASE ENJOY THE WRITING
I HOPE YOU LAUGH, AND LEARN TOO
MAY WE ALL TOGETHER MAKE THIS WORLD A PLACE OF PEACE AND HAPPINESS


I studied these words for some time, searching for a hidden message or code that would cause me to have an it's-a-cookbook! moment. So far, nothing. Given his target audience of The Oatmeal fans, I would have recommended a shorter message, like IT'S DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE, TAKE THIS.

This would seem to be a conciliatory message, a signal that this matter ought to subside, that Mr. Carreon will cease explicit or implicit threats and slip below the waves of the internet scandal-of-the-week cycle.

Alas, it seems that is not to be.

Third, Mr. Carreon gave another interview, this time to Dave Thier of Forbes, thinking that doing so again would make things better.

Image

This was a key opportunity to push the conciliatory approach reflected in his web site and convince internet inhabitants to lose interest and wander away to look at something shiny.

But it didn't go that way at all.

“So someone takes one of my letters and takes it apart. That doesn’t mean you can just declare netwar, that doesn’t mean you can encourage people to hack my website, to brute force my WordPress installation so I have to change my password. You can’t encourage people to violate my trademark and violate my twitter name and associate me with incompetence with stupidity, and douchebaggery,” he says. “And if that’s where the world is going I will fight with every ounce of force in this 5’11 180 pound frame against it. I’ve got the energy, and I’ve got the time.”


Charles Carreon is doubling down. Charles Carreon is going full Rakofsky. You should never go full Rakofsky.

It's clear that Charles Carreon is still issuing censorious threats — he's just making them vague. But as I say here all the time, vagueness in a legal threat is the hallmark of frivolousness and thuggery. What few specifics he offers are plain wrong. I've yet to see any statement by The Oatmeal asking readers to contact Carreon or his client at all, let alone a request that they hack or otherwise abuse them. (In fact, it's Carreon's client who explicitly asked his supporters to contact The Oatmeal.) The argument Carreon seems to be advancing is "if you have an audience, and you point out obnoxious behavior by someone and ridicule it, then you should be treated as inciting any conduct in which any reader engages." That's a familiar argument — you see it from threatening lawyers and indifferent or incompetent judges — but it's plain wrong. Speech is only actionable incitement when it intended to create, and likely to create, a clear and present danger of imminent lawless action. A person who genuinely gave a shit about the First Amendment, as opposed to wallowing in his own stinking petulance, would know that.

The implications of Mr. Carreon's position are profoundly chilling. Under the rule he seems to suggest, if you write about bad behavior by someone else, even if you don't urge action, you run the risk that you will be held liable when one of your readers is inspired to hack or threaten or harass. Perversely, this means that the more criminal or unconscionable or horrific the conduct you are describing, the greater legal risk you take by writing about it. That's not the law, thank God. The very suggestion is un-American and contemptible.

Moreover, note that Mr. Carreon is suggesting that it is actionable not only to inspire people to undertake (alleged) illegal action, but actionable to inspire people to "associate me with incompetence with stupidity, and douchebaggery." In other words, if your criticism of someone's conduct leads others to form an opinion of him, and express that opinion, that's actionable. That's true to the extent that someone states false facts about a person — for instance, by falsely accusing them of child abuse. But The Oatmeal offered satirically expressed opinions about Mr. Carreon's conduct in a letter which The Oatmeal presented to his readers to review. To the extent that The Oatmeal opined that Mr. Carreon is incompetent, stupid, and a douchebag, those are classic opinions absolutely protected by the First Amendment. Under First Amendment law governing defamation, they are particularly protected because The Oatmeal presented the facts based on which he drew his opinions — namely, the letter itself. Under the theory that Mr. Carreon seems to be advancing, if I wrote you a letter suggesting that your wife beds down with diseased ocelots and calling for your children to be flogged, and you publish the letter and say that it suggests that I am a disturbed person of low character, then you would be legally responsible if people formed the same opinion based on the evidence you provided. Indeed, under Mr. Carreon's apparent theory, if he criticizes The Oatmeal's response to him as vulgar or unprofessional or uncivilized, he's legally responsible for people agreeing with him. This is not law, this is madness. And bear in mind that Mr. Carreon markets himself as a First Amendment champion.

Mr. Carreon says this to his latest interviewer:

He may have a very difficult time proving that Inman “instigated attacks,” as he said on his website, but he’s certain he can find some legal recourse for what’s going on right now – “California code is just so long, but there’s something in there about this,” he says.


Oh, Mr. Carreon, indeed there is. There's California's magnificent anti-SLAPP statute, under which you'll be paying the attorney fees of anyone you sue. There's California's judgment debtor exam law, under which you can be interrogated about your income and assets in preparation for garnishing your income and, if necessary, seeking liquidation of your assets to satisfy a judgment for attorney fees against you. There's California's sanctions statute, under which you can be sanctioned for bringing suit to harass or without adequate legal or factual basis.

Read them carefully. And think. Think hard. Step back from the precipice. This can get better, by you letting it go. Or it can get worse. Much, much worse.

[Note: Mr. Carreon asserts that his site was hacked. I don't know whether that is true or not. If it is, it cannot be attributed to The Oatmeal standing up for himself. But if you are doing anything illegal -- like hacking, or making true threats -- you are a foe, not a friend, of the First Amendment. If anyone has any information on another person hacking or making true threats, you should turn them in to face criminal or civil consequences. On the other hand, bear in mind that "your criticism led to my site being hacked and me getting death threats!" is now the cry of nearly every person who becomes the internet's asshole-of-the-week, and the claim should not be accepted without proof.]
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Re: Charles Carreon: Popehat.com, by Kenneth Paul White

Postby admin » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:16 pm

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part IV: Charles Carreon Sues Everybody
Jun 17, 2012
By Ken White.
Effluvia

Note: our entire series of posts about the Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk situation is now complied under the Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk tag.

Background: the previous entries in our coverage of Charles Carreon's bizarre and contemptible behavior on behalf of his client, FunnyJunk, against The Oatmeal can be found here at Part I, Part II, and Part III.

On Friday, June 15, 2012, attorney Charles Carreon passed from mundane short-term internet notoriety into a sort of legal cartoon-supervillainy.

He transcended typical internet infamy when he filed a federal lawsuit last Friday in the United Sates District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland. He belonged to the ages the moment he filed that lawsuit not only against Matthew Inman, proprietor of The Oatmeal, but also against IndieGoGo Inc., the company that hosted Inman's ridiculously effective fundraiser for the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society.

But that level of censorious litigiousness was not enough for Charles Carreon. He sought something more. And so, on that same Friday, Charles Carreon also sued the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society, the beneficiaries of Matthew Inman's fundraiser.

Yes. Charles Carreon, butthurt that someone had leveraged his douchebaggery into almost two hundred thousand dollars of donations to two worthy charities, sued the charities.

I learned of this from Kevin Underhill, a Northern California attorney and proprietor of Lowering the Bar. If you don't already have Lowering the Bar in your RSS feed or your bookmarks, go put it there now. Now. There is no better site on the internet for simultaneously teaching and entertaining about the legal system.

Kevin emailed me because he spotted a notice from Courthouse News Service that Carreon had filed suit on Friday. The suit is not available on PACER as of the time of this writing. Here's what little Kevin found, and told me, from CNS:

1. The lawsuit is captioned Charles Carreon v. Matthew Inman; IndieGogo Inc.; National Wildlife Federation; American Cancer Society; and Does [Does are as-of-yet-unnamed defendants], Case No. 4:12 cv 3112 DMR.

2. Charles Carreon appears as "attorney pro se," meaning "I am attorney but am representing only myself" and "I will continue to wreak havoc until forcibly medicated."

3. CNS included the following description of the case, which is most likely drafted by CNS upon review of the complaint: "Trademark infringement and incitement to cyber-vandalism. Defendants Inman and IndieGogo are commercial fundraisers that failed to file disclosures or annual reports. Inman launched a Bear Love campaign, which purports to raise money for defendant charitable organizations, but was really designed to revile plaintiff and his client, Funnyjunk.com, and to initiate a campaign of "trolling" and cybervandalism against them, which has caused people to hack Inman's computer and falsely impersonate him. The campaign included obscenities, an obscene comics and a false accusation that FunnyJunk "stole a bunch of my comics and hosted them." Inman runs the comedy website The Oatmeal."

Now, that summary, most likely written by CNS, may be flawed; thorough analysis must await getting a copy of the complaint. But to the extent the summary is accurate, it suggests a number of patent defects in the complaint. First of all, Carreon — appearing pro se — doesn't have standing to sue for false statements against FunnyJunk, or for trademark violations against FunnyJunk. Second, if the "trademark infringement" is premised on the notion that The Oatmeal violated Charles Carreon's trademark in his own name by criticizing him, it is knowingly frivolous for the reasons set forth in the excellent letter Mr. Inman's attorney sent. Inman's discussion of Charles Carreon was self-evidently on its face classic nominative fair use, because it named him to shame him and not to make commercial use of his name. Similarly, I can say that Charles Carreon remains a petulant, amoral, censorious douchebag without violating his trademark because that's nominative, not commercial.

Further analysis must await review of the complaint, which should be available to the public soon. Note that there is no way to tell yet — without the complaint — the causes of action he has levied against the charities. He may have sued them only for injunctive or declaratory relief.

Charles Carreon is entitled and self-righteous to an abnormal degree, as you can see in these comments to Nick Nafpliotis, who did a great job tracking him down and interviewing him. In that interview, Carreon used a tactic that is now typical of litigious and thin-skinned people who are introduced to the Streisand Effect — he indulged in some good old-fashioned Godwinizing and quasi-Victorian pearl-clutching and couch-fainting:

I don't know if you're familiar with his cartooning–people having their heads thrown in a chipper, his character of a pterodactyl consuming blended brains with gusto–I've actually never seen anyone incite people to violence in that fashion."

. . . .

"It might not have seemed very dehumanizing when Walt Disney made Japanese people look silly with buck teeth and big glasses who could not pronounce their 'R's or their 'L's. But it was dehumanizing, and the purpose was to direct evil intentions against them, which ultimately resulted in the only nuclear holocaust that ever occurred in the history of humanity. I don't think Truman would have ever done that if we hadn't so dehumanized the enemy."


When you evaluate Charles Carreon being shocked and appalled at the violence in cartoons on The Oatmeal (which are milder, in fact, than many things you can see on South Park), and when you consider his contrived opposition to people "dehumanizing" the opposition, bear in mind that the site he and his wife run includes badly photoshopped cartoons of George W. Bush and Condoleeza Rice having sex, and a song about Rice by Charles Carreon himself with a picture of Rice photoshopped to appear topless on a can of "Tits and Rice" soup. (Betcha there's more on their site; I haven't waded through all of the nutty incoherent sub-normal muck yet.) So: in addition to being a censor, Carreon is a hypocritical tool. He's the most universally scorned figure in the schoolyard: bully who can dish it out but can't take it.

But those are words. Carreon has filed suit. That's action. It calls for action in return. So act.

1. Kevin and I have offered pro bono help, and will be recruiting other First Amendment lawyers to offer pro bono help. It's not just Mr. Inman who needs help. IndyGoGo does to. So do the charities. No doubt the charities already have excellent lawyers, but money that they spend fighting Carreon (whatever the causes of action he brought) is money that they don't have to fight cancer and help wildlife. That's an infuriating, evil turn of events.

2. You could still donate through the IndieGoGo program The Oatmeal set up. Or you could donate directly to the American Cancer Society or the National Wildlife Federation. I like animals, and I loved my mother who died at 55 of cancer, but I have no qualms whatsoever about encouraging people to donate to those causes as part of a gesture of defiance and contempt against Charles Carreon and the petulant, amoral, censorious douchebaggery he represents.

3. Spread the word. Tell this story on blogs, forums, and social media. Encourage people to donate as part of a gesture of defiance of Charles Carreon and entitled butthurt censors everywhere. Help the Streisand Effect work.

4. Do not, under any circumstances, direct abusive emails or calls or other communications to Mr. Carreon. That helps him and hurts the good guys. I don't take his claims of victimhood at face value — not in the least — but such conduct is wrong, and empowers censors.

Up next: an analysis of the complaint once it is available, and a discussion of federal court options. (Maybe. As I said before, it may be more instructive for Mr. Carreon to learn about those by finding himself on the business end of them.)

Edit One: Kevin's post is up at Lowering the Bar.

Edit Two: As of 745 PST Monday, I have the complaint from various sources. You can find it at Carreon's website, though caution is probably warranted there. I have the unredacted version, and haven't yet compared it to the redacted version that Carreon publishes.

I'll discuss my analysis of the complaint when time permits. However, that analysis is likely to be quite limited, as I think the best policy is to keep the powder dry for the Rule 11 motion and motion to dismiss. In brief, however, Carreon names the two charities and IndieGoGo to seek to have the proceeds of the fundraiser held in a charitable trust and to force the charities to "police" fundraisers using their name so that people like Carreon won't be butthurt. His trademark claim is premised on an obviously fake and satirical Twitter account that used his name to parody him for a couple of days; he accuses Inman "upon information and belief" (meaning "without evidence") of being behind it. He also sues Inman and Does for "Inciting and Committing Cybervandalism In the Nature of
Trespass to Chattels, False Personation, and Identity Theft," on the theory that Inman is liable for things that people allegedly did to him. Uh-huh. It's not as illiterate as I expected, but it's definitely overtly petulant-entitled-crazypants.

Edit Three: As a consequence of the Streisand Effect, many people are already examining and critiquing the complaint closely. From commenter W. Ross, we already have an easily provable false statement of fact from the complaint.
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Re: Charles Carreon: Popehat.com, by Kenneth Paul White

Postby admin » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:19 pm

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part V: A Brief Review of Charles Carreon's Complaint
Jun 19, 2012
By Ken White.
Law

Note: our entire series of posts about the Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk situation is now complied under the Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk tag.

Background: our previous coverage of the epic and (epically ridiculous) battle between FunnyJunk attorney Charles Carreon and The Oatmeal can be found here: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

A few days ago I discussed a report — which proved true — that FunnyJunk's attorney Charles Carreon had sued Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal, IndieGoGo, and two charities in a fit of what can only be described as unbalanced, from-Hell's-heart-I-stab-at-thee pique.

Today, as promised, I'm going to talk a bit about the merits of — no, the substance of — you know, scratch that. I'm going to talk about the butthurt that Charles Carreon angrily crayoned down and chucked at a federal judge.

I. Preliminaries

Mr. Carreon's complaint is now hosted many places, including (in redacted form, without large exhibits) here. The entire thing, with exhibits, is now available on PACER as well.

I'm not going to explain all of the problems with it. First, that would be a monstrously long post. Second, I'm not going to do anything that might help Charles Carreon, whose behavior in this matter is contemptible. So: you'll have to wait for motion practice to see the defendants' approach to issues of jurisdiction, standing, California's anti-SLAPP statute, and a full treatment of Mr. Carreon's eccentric view of California charitable law. I have no doubt that Venkat Balasubramani will do a spectacular job for Matthew Inman, with whatever assistance he and Mr. Inman decide to accept. (Thanks, by the way, to the attorneys, paralegals, law students, and other professionals who have offered pro bono help. Stand by. You never know who might need it.)

So: the complaint. Let's begin by quoting an applicable Federal Rule of Civil Procedure looming over it, and over Mr. Carreon: Rule 11.

b) Representations to the Court. By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper—whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it—an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:

(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation;

(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;

(3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery;

. . . .[emphasis added]


Violations of Rule 11 may lead to monetary sanctions by the court.

On to the complaint itself.

II. Causes of Action and Prayers For Relief

As the Courthouse News Service report correctly suggested, Carreon's complaint names Matthew Inman (proprietor of The Oatmeal), IndieGoGo Inc. (the web site that hosted the fundraiser), the American Cancer Society, the National Wildlife Federation, and a number of "Does," or as-of-yet-unidentified defendants to be named later. After Mr. Carreon's summary of what he believes the facts and the law to be, there are three causes of action — that is, three claims based on which Mr. Carreon believes he is entitled to relief.

The first cause of action seeks to impose a constructive trust upon the proceeds of Inman's BearLove charity. To over-simplify, trust is a legal structure that puts restrictions on the use of an asset and imposes obligations on its manager, the trustee; a constructive trust is a remedy that a court can impose by ordering that an asset be treated as if it were in a trust, with its use restricted and supervised. Mr. Carreon asserts that the court must impose a constructive trust because Mr. Inman and IndieGogo have violated California charity law. Of course, under California law, a constructive trust is a remedy, not a cause of action– it's what you get if you prove a violation you have standing to complain about, not the violation itself.

The second cause of action asserts a trademark violation under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125, against Mr. Inman and one of the Does. Mr. Carreon asserts that (as, if you thought about it, you would expect) he trademarked his name, that somebody started a fake Twitter account in the name @charles_carreon, and that this hurt him. Mr. Carreon thinks that this person was incited by Mr. Inman, or "on information and belief" was Mr. Inman himself. "On information and belief" is lawyer-speak for "I have no evidence whatsoever, but I kind of like to imagine that it's true, and who knows what I'll find in discovery." Mr. Carreon goes on to complain that the fake @charles_carreon tweets were "abrasive and provoking" and "engendered negative responses" to him, which is upsetting because he "makes it a habit to engage in tempered speech even on matters of heated debate." Yes, it's totally true, as anyone who has read about this story or met Charles Carreon could attest: interacting with him is clearly a memorable joy, akin to being farted upon by a unicorn, and his actions normally inspire only adulation and the occasional rapturous fainting incident.

The third cause of action is against Inman and the Does again, this time for the awkwardly named "Inciting and Committing Cybervandalism In The Nature of Trespass To Chattels, False Personation, and Identity Theft," which believe it or not you will not find in the California Civil Code. Here Mr. Carreon asserts that Inman incited others to hack Mr. Carreon's website (which he immediately detected and stopped) or use his email address to sign him up for websites and goods and services he did not want. Mr. Carreon asserts once again "on information and belief" (or, as I prefer to say, "ass-damply") that Mr. Inman perhaps did these things himself.

Finally, we have the "prayer for relief," where Mr. Carreon says what he wants out of all of this. He wants (a) an order imposing a trust over the BearLove proceeds, (2) an order barring Doe No. 1 or Inman from using his name "in any manner," (3) an order requiring IndieGoGo to comply with certain California charity laws Mr. Carreon thinks ought to apply to them, (4) a order requiring the National Wildlife Foundation and the American Cancer society to do things Mr. Carreon thinks they are supposed to be doing, (5) damages, (6) disgorgement by Mr. Inman and IndieGoGo of "ill-gotten profits," (7) triple damages, (8) attorney fees, (9) an order requiring the defendants to report to the court about how they are complying with what Mr. Carreon wants them to do, (10) punitive damages, and (11) a formal judicial declaration of most wanton and hurtful trespass unto fee-fees. I may have made one of those up.

Having reaped the whirlwind of scorn for suing the charities, Mr. Carreon will no doubt protest that he didn't sue them for money, he just asked that they comply with the law. In fact, it's going to be difficult and expensive for the charities to respond at all. Even though Mr. Carreon named the charities as defendants in the caption, he doesn't name them as defendants in any of the three causes of action, and yet he asks the court to issue orders directing them to do things, and his demands for damages and attorney fees doesn't make it clear whom he thinks should be paying him. Also, in paragraph six identifying the parties and the court's jurisdiction over them, Mr. Carreon only says "The Charitable Organization Defendants are . . ." before trailing off awkwardly without conclusion, like a former friend or family member mulling how to create a diversion rather than answer the question "how can you tolerate being associated with this vexatious twatwaffle?" This means that the charities will have to pay lawyers to research how to put into fancy federal-court language the basic message "attention entitled dipshit: what exactly are you suing us for?"

In addition, there are patent defects, provably false statements, and rank hypocrisies in the complaint. Let's mention just a few:

III. Legal, Factual, And Moral Bogosities

Sweet Charity: Mr. Carreon's theory of how California charity law governs the defendants is wholly harebrained. As but one example: Mr. Carreon asserts that California Government Code section 12599 controls The Oatmeal, even though that statute by its own terms applies to "any individual, corporation, unincorporated association, or other
legal entity who for compensation" engages in fundraising in California — professional telemarketers and fundraisers, in other words. In a similarly wrong-headed or deliberately deceptive vein, Mr. Carreon claims that Government Code section 12599.6(b) requires charities like the ones he has sued here to "exercise and establish control" over "all fundraising activities conducted by others for their benefit." Except that's not what Government Code section 12599.6 says at all. It says "A charitable organization must establish and exercise control over its fundraising activities conducted for its benefit, including
approval of all written contracts and agreements . . . ." Mr. Carreon made up the part requiring charities to police fundraising they don't control themselves or contract out. That's why if your kids sell lemonade in order to donate the proceeds to save the pandas, the World Wildlife Fund doesn't have to come and proofread their signs and make sure that they aren't misstating the ingredients of the snickerdoodles or coercing the Jenkins kid up the block to buy seconds.

True Versus Truthy: Mr. Carreon makes a number of factual assertions that appear to play rather fast and loose with the requirements of Rule 11, cited above. Take, for example, his claim in paragraph 37 that "Mr. Inman's stated intention is to turn over only $20,000 of the amount raised by the Bear Love campaign" to the charities. Mr. Carreon's own exhibits show that he is lying. Mr. Inman said that he was trying to raise $20,000 (at the time of this writing he has exceeded ten times that) and that he would donate half to one charity and half to the other. Later, when results far exceeded expectations, Mr. Inman posted an update, saying "a lot of people have been asking what I plan to do with the extra money we raised over the initial $20,000. 100% of it is going to charity. I’m going to add 2 more charities to the list, in addition to the ACS and the NWF." Mr. Carreon also implies falsely in paragraph 30 — as he has stated falsely to the media — that the bear-loving mother Mr. Inman drew was meant to be Mr. Carreon's mom, when in fact the post makes it perfectly clear that the statement is directed a FunnyJunk, a web site that does not actually have a mother (unless, perhaps, its mother is AOL).

Take also Mr. Carreon's dark speculation that some sort of skullduggery must be at work for anyone to find the email he uses because he has not posted it anywhere on the internet "except where required by law or internet regulations [sic]." In fact, aside from PACER and WHOIS entries (which Mr. Carreon conceded) he also made the email address available in his California State Bar profile, his Oregon State Bar profile, as the contact email for his "RagingBlog" blog captioned "Charles Carreon" (since deleted, hours after someone pointed it out in comments on this site), repeated all over his http://www.american-buddha.com site (where he's fond of posting his own emails to people), and in his own 2009 press release. In short, Charles Carreon's email address was easily accessible to anyone reasonably good at using Google. I don't find Google sinister. Perhaps Mr. Carreon does, particularly after this whole episode.

You Can't Say That! Mr. Carreon claims that Mr. Inman "incited" others to create a false Twitter account using his name, and to commit "Cybervandalism." Yet despite his ability to quote Mr. Inman in great detail in an embarrassingly pearl-clutching quasi-Victorian effort to cause horror and disgust at Mr. Inman's comedic style, Mr. Carreon does not cite a single thing that Mr. Inman said that sounds like incitement. Not a "go email him," not a "don't put up with this guy," not a "let's show him," not a single word encouraging any action other than donations. This is in sharp contrast to Mr. Carreon's client, FunnyJunk, which accused Mr. Inman of wanting to shut FunnyJunk down and urged its users to "Contact Oatmeal anyway [sic] you can." It also contrasts with Mr. Carreon himself, who became incensed when Mattel's trademark attorney would not respond to his emails about a porn doll that Mr. Carreon thought infringed a Mattel property, and urged his readers to contact the hapless attorney. (Both FunnyJunk and Carreon, in those examples, provided contact information for their targets — Inman redacted Carreon's contact information from the letter he published and linked his Wikipedia page rather than his web site.) But those examples, no doubt, are just different.

The implications of Mr. Carreon's argument – which will be demolished by apt First Amendment case citations in due course — are frightening. Mr. Carreon cannot cite a single thing Mr. Inman said to incite or encourage anyone to take any illegal action against Mr. Carreon. Instead, Mr. Carreon's argument seems to be that Mr. Inman committed actionable incitement not by calling for action, but merely by criticizing, ridiculing, and reviling Mr. Carreon. No First Amendment cases support such a proposition. The implications of Mr. Carreon's argument reveal its fatuity. Mr. Carreon's argument necessarily means that the more popular or listened-to a speaker is, the less they can say, for fear that an audience will be "incited" to do something illegal against whomever they are criticizing. Mr. Carreon's argument necessarily means that the more contemptible a person's behavior is, the less that others can criticize it, for fear of "incitement." It's a deeply unprincipled position, because the category of "critical speech that might cause someone to do something wrong" infinitely malleable and can be used to attack almost any criticism one doesn't like. Mr. Carreon has not articulated, will not articulate, and cannot articulate the line between permissible criticism and his open-ended definition of "incitement." It's an un-American and pro-totalitarian position, because it effectively asserts that the government should have a license to censor speech based upon the naked assertion that someone might react to it the wrong way — a proposition that American courts have spent a half-century refuting. In a man who has quite literally wrapped himself in the flag and attempted to portray himself as a defender of the First Amendment, it is a sign of weakness of character.

Free Speech For Me, But Not For Thee: In this lawsuit and his public statements about it Mr. Carreon wears the guise of Innocence Abused, but he does so quite awkwardly and unconvincingly. He portrays himself as shocked and appalled at the crassness of some of The Oatmeal's cartoons, and has pretensions to "tempered speech," but quite frankly he's full of shit. Before he became Easily Offended Aunt Agnes for purposes of this lawsuit, Carreon threw elbows. As I pointed out in Part IV, the site that Mr. and Mrs. Carreon apparently operate — to which Mr. Carreon contributes — has satirical photoshops of politicians he doesn't like having sex, or topless on a photoshopped can of "Tits and Rice." But his satire does not extend only to politicians. The site also hosts a photoshop of a newspaper columnist altered so that it appears she is masturbating two men simultaneously. Apparently Mr. and Mrs. Carreon didn't like her columns.

Some time ago, Mr. Carreon lived in Ashland, Oregon, and the site was hosted on a network owned by the City of Ashland. When the columnist depicted in the two-dicks-at-once photoshop complained that the picture was pornographic and a copyright violation, the City of Ashland pulled the plug on the site. (That's what you get when you let the government host your content.) Carreon sued the city for First Amendment violations, representing the site. He lost in United States District Court and again on Appeal based on the city's limited liability — the courts found that he failed to demonstrate that the site takedown was the result of a city policy or lack of appropriate training. For what it's worth, city liability aside, I think the photoshop was clearly neither a copyright violation nor legally obscene in a manner permitting government censorship. But the point is that here, defending the right of the site he and his wife wrote for to post pornographic images of newspaper columnists who wrote things they disagreed with, Mr. Carreon waxed rhapsodic about free speech:

"Internet censorship is just the latest outbreak of a disease that government always suffers from — wanting to control what people can say," says Carreon, "We are shining a light on a problem that no one in Ashland knew about — the existence of a censor inside of the City who could, and did, turn off websites for totally improper reasons. In the case of American Buddha, it was a complaint from conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, who was the subject of a risque cartoon [sic] that was posted on the American Buddha website http://www.american-buddha.com, In other cases, we don't know what the reasons were, but the websites were turned off."

. . .

Asked why the case was important enough to justify an appeal to the Ninth Circuit, a project that can easily cost a client a healthy five-figure sum, Carreon explained: "The issue is one of first-impression, because whether a municipal Internet system subjects a city to First Amendment restrictions is, strictly speaking, a new one. On the other hand, it's just a replay of the old Jehovah's WItness cases, where an unpopular religion found its message blocked by restrictions on the use of loudspeakers and pamphleteering. American Buddha is a digital pamphleteer, entitled to the same protections as the works of the Founding Fathers, who wrote 'The Federalist Papers' pseudonymously, and circulated them secretly to avoid Royal prosecution. The Revolutionary War was in large part, a war against censorship. And it's not over."


Compare that position to the one he assumes here, asserting that Matthew Inman's impudent BearLove image is so horrific that charities ought to be court-ordered to make him stop using it to raise money for them. Compare his words about anonymity to his desire to find the person who made an obviously satirical Twitter account mocking him. Compare his stirring rhetoric, which invoked the Founders and the Revolutionary War and past victims of censorship, with his current rhetoric, which invites comparison to the Comics Code Authority and Thomas Bowdler and Judge Louis A. Goodman. Compare who he has claimed to be, and who he wishes he were, to who he has become as a result of his petulance and ego. Compare, and shake your head.

Note: Many of the observations in this post come from people who offered comments on our prior chapters, including but not limited to Nicholas Weaver, W Ross, joe, Ann Branson, Keith R, MJ, and Jack. They have my thanks. I suspect that the longer Charles Carreon continues to dig, the more illuminating things readers will find in his past writings and actions. That is as it ought to be.

First Edit: ArsTechnica refers to this as a "devastaing nuclear attack." If you've followed Carreon, you know that means it's not my fault, but Walt Disney's.

Second Edit: In the "abject and unapologetic hypocrisy" category, this page on the American Buddha web site shouldn't be missed. Headed "MEMO TO ANN COULTER — YOU'LL GET YOURS, BITCH!", it includes writing attributed to Charles Carreon, including this:

Since Medusa wasn't human, it was perfectly okay for Perseus to smite her head from her shoulders. Since Coulter has abandoned her humanity for money, influence, and the adulation of fools, it is perfectly okay to use whatever means are necessary to bring an end to her reign of terror, including publishing her decapitated visage, snake ringlets and all. It doesn’t matter whether you’re left wing, right wing, libertarian or anarchist, don’t let this reactionary Medusa turn you to stone — stalk her carefully, using your mirror-shield to avoid looking directly into her eyes — and when you are close enough, one clean slice directly above the shoulders will do the trick.


Again, compare that to Charles Carreon's hand-wringing about incitement and tone and content. Hat tip: commenters Jonathan and Grifter.
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Re: Charles Carreon: Popehat.com, by Kenneth Paul White

Postby admin » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:22 pm

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part VI: The Electronic Frontier Foundation Steps In
Jun 21, 2012
By Ken White.
Effluvia

Note: All of our coverage of the Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk matter is collected under this tag.

Only a very brief update today. Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal was already represented by the eminently qualified Venkat Balasubramani, whose initial response to Charles Carreon's bumptious demand was near-perfect. Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced that it would be joining the fight at Venkat's side.

“This lawsuit is a blatant attempt to abuse the legal process to punish a critic,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. “We're very glad to help Mr. Inman fight back.”


Aces.

So, it looks like Matthew Inman is going to be just fine without likes of me or even Kevin. Nonetheless, it's not year clear who is representing the charities or IndieGogo, let alone the satirists and critics who may next be the subject of Carreon's wrath. So: my offer to attempt to find and coordinate pro bono help to any defendant (named or Doe) in this case remains. Thanks again for the many kind offers of help from lawyers, law students, and other professionals. (Fair warning: I may keep you in mind next time some other blogger is threatened with a bogus suit.)

First Edit: By the way:

Ironically, the threat of the first lawsuit never materialized. Carreon admits he was misinformed: Before demanding the $20,000, which was based on FunnyJunk's "estimate of advertising losses sustained due to the taint of being accused of engaging in willful copyright infringement," Carreon was told that all Oatmeal comics had been taken off the FunnyJunk site, even though they hadn't. "If I had known… no demand would have gone out," he says.


Correct me if I am misinterpreting it, but it sure sounds to me like Mr. Carreon is revealing a confidential attorney-client communication between himself and FunnyJunk in order to make himself look less ridiculous. Did FunnyJunk authorize Mr. Carreon to make that disclosure, which could prejudice FunnyJunk?
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Re: Charles Carreon: Popehat.com, by Kenneth Paul White

Postby admin » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:23 pm

Update: Charles Carreon Files First Amended Complaint
Jun 25, 2012
By Ken White.
Law

Just a very brief update in the Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk saga — Charles Carreon has filed a First Amended Complaint.

I've downloaded it from PACER. It's available here.

Busy day ahead, but I hope to offer commentary by tomorrow morning.

Edited to add: I've praised PACER as a resource for citizens to become informed about court proceedings and practice investigative blogging — for instance, in my Anatomy of A Scam Investigation series. If you are interested in a particular federal case, you can get a PACER account and sign up for automatic email notifications each time a document is filed in the case. You'll know what's happening as quickly as the media and participants do.
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Re: Charles Carreon: Popehat.com, by Kenneth Paul White

Postby admin » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:25 pm

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk: Request For Pro Bono Help In Bay Area
Jun 27, 2012
By Ken White.
Law

[Note: our prior coverage of the Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk debacle is collected in this tag.]

Image

Thanks much to the lawyers, law students, paralegals, technical experts, and others who have previously offered pro bono help to people caught up in Charles Carreon's litigation arising from The Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk perfect storm of internet ridiculousness.

I'm writing today, and throwing up the Popehat Signal, to make a very specific follow-up request. I'm looking for a lawyer admitted in United States District Court for the Northern District of California, and preferably working in the Bay Area, to act as pro bono local counsel for someone involved in this case. Lead counsel is a figure of unmitigated awesomeness and consummate qualifications for the case at hand. [Please do not speculate about details in the comments. You'll find out soon enough.]

Drop me an email, please.
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Re: Charles Carreon: Popehat.com, by Kenneth Paul White

Postby admin » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:26 pm

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part VII: Charlie The Censor Files A Motion
Jun 30, 2012
By Ken White.
Law

[All of our coverage of the Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk debacle is collected under this tag.]

Here it was, Saturday night, and I was all set for a relaxing evening: a few beers at the Yard House and then a movie with my lovely wife, perhaps a few (or a few dozen) turns of Civ V (with the expansion), and sleep. Or maybe I was going to spend the evening conferring with my shadowy Illuminati brethren, spinning our web to control your destiny. It really depends on whom you ask.

Our pal Charlie the Censor had other plans.

Charles Carreon, fresh from amending his complaint against Matt Inman, IndieGoGo, and two charities, filed an application for a temporary restraining order, seeking court intervention to prevent IndieGoGo from distributing the astounding $220,000 Matt Inman's BearLove campaign raised to fight cancer and help bears.

Adam Steinbaugh scooped me on this, and has both the documents and some good analysis. I learned of it via a PACER email and considered starting a post immediately, then considered the likely consequences if I started typing the standard for preliminary injunctions into my iPhone in the middle of date night, and reconsidered.

I'm only going to offer only limited analysis; I'll provide the opposing briefs when they pop up on PACER. For now, consider this:

1. Charlie the Censor continues to assert that Matt Inman is a "commercial fundraiser for charitable purposes." However, as I noted in Chapter V, the statute doesn't seem to support that claim. Mr. Carreon offers no legal authority or argument for why Inman falls into the definition. To be fair to him, he does assert the proposition "plainly" and "clearly" several times, and I think once he may have said "strenuously," though I may be misremembering that.

2. Charlie the Censor correctly states that preliminary relief (including both temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions) are employed by courts to prevent "irreparable harm." However, he fails to note that "irreparable harm" generally excludes pure monetary harm. Such harm is not irreparable because it can be addressed by an award of damages against the alleged wrongdoer. Hence, it is generally not a basis for preliminary injunctive relief. “(P)laintiff must demonstrate potential harm which cannot be redressed by a legal or an equitable remedy following a trial. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Comm'n v. NFL (9th Cir. 1980) 634 F2d 1197, 1202 [monetary harm alone does not constitute irreparable harm]. Here, Mr. Carreon is allegedly concerned that Mr. Inman will abscond with the money, or that donors will be deprived of the monetary value of tax write-offs. Both of those harms can be addressed by money. They're not irreparable. There are exceptions, but this will be a problem for him.

3. Charlie the Censor uses the application as a vehicle to accuse Mr. Inman and IndieGoGo of defrauding donors by falsely suggesting that their donations would be tax-deductible. Yet as Adam Steinbaugh pointed out in a comment here, IndeGoGo offers perfectly clear guidance on this subject. In other words, it's so clear that even a Popehat reader can find it.

4. As Adam explains in his post, Charlie the Censor's motion illustrates how petty he is. By filing and amending his lawsuit, he's tried to reframe the narrative to be about him vindicating the rights of donors everywhere, enforcing California charity law, and preventing abuse of charities. But the motion reveals that he was willing to let IndieGoGo off the hook — abandon his opposition to their 4% fee and capitulate on his quest to have a court order them to comply with what Mr. Carreon imagines it to be — if they just agree to breach their contract with Mr. Inman and send the money directly to the two charities. In other words, he wants to save face, to achieve some sort of pathetic victory over Mr. Inman, no matter how mean and small. I find this more pitiful than maddening, actually.

5. Charlie the Censor says, in explaining why the Court should prohibit IndieGoGo from releasing the money to Inman, "[a]lthough he induced many donors to donate,his desire to engage in showboating with the proceeds does not demonstrate the sober, responsible attitude appropriate to the trustee of a charitable fund." Sorry, Charlie, could you repeat that? I think you were saying something about a sober, responsible attitude, but I somehow got distracted.

6. Charlie the Censor seems to have turned down his outrage a few notches regarding the fact that IndieGoGo gets a 4% fee. Perhaps he realized how thoroughly that is disclosed on IndieGoGo's website. Or perhaps he realized that a 96% return to the charities is vastly better than the cut charities usually get from fundraising conducted in their name under the statutory scheme he seeks to impose upon IndieGoGo and Mr. Inman.

7. Charlie the Censor remains outraged that Mr. Inman wants to sully the good reputation of charitable fundraising through a "publicity stunt." This is truly an excellent point. If charity fundraising is characterized by anything, it's high levels of dignity. You'd never see a publicity stunt like people standing in front of a comically outsized check. You'd never see politicians and celebrities using charitable donations for attention. You'd never see something like an eating contest to promote an anti-hunger charity. No, like anything associated with money, it's really quite pure. Thank goodness we have people like Charlie the Censor who are willing to use the legal system to tell people what to think, what to say, and how and why they may donate to charity, to keep it that way. [Or maybe you don't think Charlie the Censor should be telling people what kinds of charitable campaigns shouldn't be allowed because the offend his delicate sensibilities. Maybe you think that it's none of Charlie the Censor's damn business if someone like Matt Inman wants to point to a bad actor -- a bad actor like Charlie the Censor -- to inspire people to donate money to a good cause in defiance. If you feel that way, it's too late to donate to BearLove -- but it's not too late to donate a few bucks to Ann Bransom's campaign, premised on the notion "My intentions in donating my own money are nobody's business."]

Watch for an update Monday night.

FIRST UPDATE: Sunday July 1st, 3:00: PACER just informed me that IndieGoGo filed its opposition. I downloaded it. Here is the memorandum of points and authorities, and the relevant supporting declarations are here and here.

IndieGoGo's opposition is devastating. The main points may be summarized as follows:

1. Even though Carreon filed suit on June 15, 2012, and even though he knew exactly when IndieGoGo would transfer the funds, Carreon delayed until June 28, 2012 to file his application for a TRO — after IndieGoGo had already transferred the money, and after IndieGoGo told Carreon they had already transferred the money. As IndieGogo points out, Carreon offers no explanation for his delay.

2. IndieGoGo explains that it was only ever in possession of about half of the money anyway — the half contributed by credit card. If you contribute at IndieGoGo through PayPal, the money goes directly to the person who started the campaign (here, Mr. Inman.) If you contribute through a credit card, the money goes to IndieGoGo. IndieGoGo gives its estimate of how much was left after fees.

3. At Mr. Inman's request, IndieGoGo distributed the credit card money directly to the two charities, the National Wildlife Fund and the American Cancer Society. So Mr. Inman doesn't get to take his picture with the entire pile of money (only the part that came through PayPal) and Charlie the Censor gets a petulant amoral victory. However, because Charlie the Censor was willing to abuse litigation and frustrate the charitable purpose of Mr. Inman's campaign, Mr. Inman's approach was strategically sound. The pedagogical point that Mr. Inman could have achieved by taking the picture has been achieved by the nationwide attention to Mr. Carreon's appalling and unprofessional behavior.

4. IndieGoGo argues, as I did above, that because this involves money, there is no showing of irreparable harm, and thus preliminary injunctive relief is inappropriate.

5. IndieGoGo argues that it is immune from Charlie the Censor's cause of action against it under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally speaking says that online service providers are not liable for the postings of their guests and customers. (That's why if you post something defamatory on Facebook, Facebook is not liable the way a newspaper would be if it printed your op-ed making the same defamatory statement.)

6. IndieGoGo — unlike Charlie the Censor — engages in a thoughtful and persuasive discussion of pertinent authorities on California charity law, and establishes rather convincingly that he lacks standing to sue. (Charlie the Censor probably foresaw this argument, which is why his First Amended Complaint attempts to drag the California Attorney General into the case.)

This is an extremely well-drafted rebuke to Charlie the Censor and would be humiliating to any normal attorney. In the case of Charlie the Censor, he'll probably try to sue PayPal next.

SECOND UPDATE: July 1: [I made you an original version of this update, but apparently I eated it.] The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed their opposition on behalf of Mr. Inman. It's awesome. So is their commentary.

Just a few important points from the opposition:

1. The EFF eviscerates Carreon's argument that Mr. Inman is a commercial fundraiser, using — and I know this will be shocking if you have been following the case so far — actual law.

2. The EFF invokes the First Amendment in a way that IndieGoGo does not, explaining that charitable fundraising is protected speech entitled to more deference than standard commercial speech, and thoroughly refuting Mr. Carreon's quasi-Victorian couch-fainting (and deeply hypocritical) approach to fundraising decorum.

3. The EFF ably demonstrates that Mr. Inman did not, in fact, make any false statements about the fundraiser.

4. The EFF offers an answer — a resounding "no" — to the now common question "can Charlie the Censor manufacture standing by just making a donation?" Again bringing law to Mr. Carreon's rhetoric-fight, the EFF demonstrates that Mr. Carreon has no standing to police charities under California law.

The rest is entertaining rubble-bouncing. That's going to leave a mark.

THIRD UPDATE: July 2, 2012 at 3:30 PST: Judge Chen has issued an order asking Mr. Inman to submit evidence that he has, in fact, sent checks to the two charities, suggesting this would make the motion moot. This is a very strong indication that Judge Chen will deny the motion as moot if Mr. Inman supplies the evidence.

Fourth Update: July 3, 2012 at 3:30 PST: Mr. Inman's attorney responded to the Court's order by filing a declaration indicating that he personally mailed the checks written by Mr. Inman to the two charities. That's it. Really nothing to see.
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