The Secrets of the Internet's Most Beloved Viral Marketer

The Secrets of the Internet's Most Beloved Viral Marketer

Postby admin » Mon Sep 16, 2013 4:36 pm

The Secrets Of The Internet’s Most Beloved Viral Marketer
by Jack Stuef

December 7, 2012

Matthew Inman’s site, The Oatmeal, is one of the biggest comics on the Web. Why the “envy of nearly every cartoonist” is suddenly under siege.

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Matthew Inman boasts that his site, The Oatmeal, has received over a billion page views since he launched it in 2009, making it one of most widely read comics in the world. But Inman bears little relation to his lumpy everyman profile on the site, and the disconnect between that cheerful profile and his actual identity — an edgy comic and unapologetic online operator — collided this week after a rape joke made its way into his typically safe comic.

In this comic, Inman described the role of different keys on the keyboard. F5, he said, was the “rape victim” of the group. “I MUST VIOLATE YOU OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN!” a rapist blob monster said to the F5 key as it ran away crying.

Inman quickly found that he’s now too big to jest about sexual violence in the language of Reddit. The Internet was quick to trash the comic.

His own fans quickly took him to task on The Oatmeal’s Facebook page. “Really, in your awesomeness and creativity, you couldn’t come up with something better than a rape ‘joke’?” one asked. “I expected more from you.”

At first Inman ignored the criticism, but by Tuesday, he felt enough heat to remove the panel with the rape joke. But he added a comment at the bottom complaining that comedians like himself are no longer allowed to say the word “rape.” Defensively, Inman said he’s previously “donated $1,000 of my own money to a battered women’s group.”

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The removed panel from Inman’s comic theoatmeal.com / Via elevatorgate.wordpress.com

“To all those who complained: thank you for censoring me,” he wrote. “It worked.”

He had to walk that sneering response back, too, writing on Twitter that both the comic and the comment were “fucking stupid.” He finally said he was sorry, then quit Twitter for the day. The comic is no longer listed on his website’s homepage, though it remains accessible with the last panel removed.

Inman is finding what big American businesses have known for decades: Keeping your mouth shut is generally better for business. Inman embodies a generation of online publishing entrepreneurs who came up as independent figures, with a touch of the outlaw. On one hand, Inman sees himself as a comedian, an artist who has to answer to nobody, a guy who works for himself and is thus finally free to mock people who dislike his work. But on the other hand, The Oatmeal has always been first and foremost a business, designed by a formula to be as popular and inoffensive as possible to the social-media-sharing Internet public.

And making rape jokes is bad for business.

Unlike most cartoonists, online and off, Inman, 30, came to the profession by way of one of the Internet’s most-hated practices: Search engine optimization tricks.

Inman, back when The Guardian speculated in 2008 on whether he was a “genius…or a fiend,” was an online marketer who made his name devising quizzes and cartoons aimed at going viral on the web. But the real purpose of this linkbait was what was hidden inside: search-engine keywords and links to his clients’ websites, an underhanded tactic meant to shoot them to the top of Google.

Inman’s transformation from a reviled search-engine-optimization expert and marketer to a beloved comic artist was less dramatic than it sounds. Inman has described The Oatmeal as a kind of continuation of his Internet marketing work. He’s still making cartoons and quizzes carefully configured to go viral, but instead of doing it for clients, he’s now lining his pockets directly. And on The Oatmeal, he hosts some comics and quizzes originally created for SEO traffic right alongside work created originally for the site.

“With The Oatmeal, I wanted to create something where the viral marketing itself was the product, rather than trying to put it on something else,” he said in an interview two years ago.

Inman’s SEO work was successful, but he was always beholden to the whims of Google, which doesn’t appreciate schemers looking to game its search engine, and shut down one of his most effective tricks, hiding the term “free online dating” in unrelated quizzes.

With a webcomic, though, Inman doesn’t have to rely on outrunning the Google police. Instead, he focused from the start on the conversations on other, more human, platforms.

“At the beginning, I assumed that, to be successful, I had to sort of pander to these ideas that were coming out of Digg,” Inman told an interviewer this month. Digg, of course, is no longer the social media giant it once was, but posting his comics there was responsible for much of his early success. Inman said he regrets that blatant pandering now, but his comics still seem to be written according to that formula — simply pointed at Reddit, Digg’s bigger spiritual descendent.

But Inman has had a complicated relationship with Reddit. Two years ago, Redditors discovered he had been posting his comics to the site himself, and, in his past job as an Internet marketer, had posted his linkbait quizzes and comic infographics designed to draw traffic to his SEO clients. If there’s one thing Reddit hates, it’s spammers, and after Inman’s Reddit activity was outed in a thread for a webcomic satirizing The Oatmeal’s pandering, there was a veritable Reddit backlash against his comic.

Inman reacted by rickrolling readers who had been linked to The Oatmeal from Reddit.

Soon he stopped, and Reddit, apparently unable to resist a webcomic from a sharp traffic guru aimed squarely at them, resumed serving as a major source of traffic. But the damage was done. Inman mocked his critics, but in the end, when his bottom line was threatened, his business sense forced him to capitulate.

A year after starting The Oatmeal, Inman said he was already making half a million dollars in profit a year annually from the site.

He’s been able to monetize that traffic by exploiting the webcomic model. Readers are willing to buy T-shirts from webcomic artists or donate to their virtual tip jars at least partly for altruistic reasons — unlike commercial creatives, they depend on the patronage of their readers to make a living with their art.

Inman plays into this myth of the solitary, struggling webcomic artist, calling The Oatmeal a “one man operation,” though he employs family members to run his sprawling retail business. When Inman declined to be interviewed for this story, the word did not come from Inman himself, but from his publicist.

Unlike that of most successful webcomic artists, Inman’s work was not originally a labor of love, a slow process of honing one’s voice, developing an original perspective and take on the art form, and eventually building an audience. It was always business, always a play to known sources of Web traffic, whether for clients or for himself.

In interviews with mainstream publications, he strongly denies this. Being perceived as part of the webcomic community is vital to his bottom line, and Inman certainly wants to be seen that way. “I’m totally opposed to making this a company. I just don’t have it in me,” the apparent millionaire told his hometown alt paper, the Seattle Weekly.

When given the opportunity to speak in front of business-minded audiences, however, the former SEO mastermind has been unable to hold himself back. Speaking before a tech conference audience at Gnomedex in Seattle in 2010, Inman delivered a 27-minute presentation explaining his process for creating a comic or quiz for his website. His comics, the slideshow says, are created according to a formula aimed at pandering to the broad tastes of the Internet and social media, based on six core principles:

- Find a common gripe
- Pick things everyone can relate to
- Create easily digestible content
- Create an infographic
- Talk about memes and current events
- Incite an emotion

Inman’s “gripe” comics take ideas that are already being expressed by certain constituencies around the Internet and simply put them in comic form. For example, many people get irked by the incorrect use of grammar and spelling, so he writes explanatory comics on this subject to attract that traffic. Inman has admitted in multiple interviews that spelling and grammar are not actually interests of his, but the comics get traffic (and sell a lot of posters to schools, ads for which appear at the bottom of each of those comics), and he works with an editor to correct his own use of language in those comics.

For “infographics,” he gathers groups of factoids together, making readers more likely to share because they feel like they’re learning something interesting. Inman also says one of his main comedic strategies involves taking a noun and attaching funny words to it, or taking a list of nouns and drawing lines to between them. It’s not unlike a fourth grader filling out a Mad Lib, one critic observed.

By and large, Inman plays it safe. He doesn’t write comics about things he doesn’t already know are popular on the Web. Before the rape joke, there was scant evidence he held any opinion truly unpopular on the Internet.

Inman is also a fitness buff. Though he draws himself on The Oatmeal as a blob of a man, he’s actually young and attractive. Inman has said he draws himself that way because attractive, detailed characters are less “relatable” for his audience.

In an interview with Men’s Health Singapore, he detailed some of his running feats, including completing an ultra-marathon of 50 miles, and explained why he doesn’t draw comics about a subject that interests him so deeply.

“I would love to make a comic about ultra running,” Inman said. “But not many people can say, ‘Oh, yeah, I totally know what that feels like, running a hundred miles.’ Similarly, I wanted to make a comic about snowboarding because I love snowboarding. But I don’t know if enough of my readers will get it. So I try to limit my comics to the stuff on everybody’s frequency.”

Inman’s version of a creative risk came recently; instead of just pandering to the Internet’s love of cats, he made a comic about his dog. “That was in my notebook for two years,” Inman said. “I thought, this is no good, people don’t — dogs aren’t funny. You can’t make dogs funny. It’s impossible. People can’t relate.” He said he published the comic in “embarrassment,” but it turns out the Internet also likes dogs. The comic has been “liked” over 600,000 times on Facebook.

Inman has always focused on traffic, not comments or criticism. But until the rape controversy, Inman had never faced such sustained criticism from so many corners. And even if he has admitted to pandering, comic artists are an inclusive community, and nearly all I talked to said they were happy to have him part of it.

“Inman’s large and loyal following (and their wallets) is the envy of nearly every cartoonist,” New York Times cartoonist Brian McFadden said in an e-mail. “Because he’s a relative newcomer, some of the old farts are jealous and bitch and moan by saying ‘I could do that.’ Well, they didn’t.”

That loyal following lends him a special power, one Inman has taken advantage of on a couple of occasions recently, both according to a standard Internet-attention-grabbing script. He may be able to attract criticism, but he’s also shrewd about drawing in goodwill.

In June, Inman was sued by attorney Charles Carreon as part of a dispute with FunnyJunk, an aggregating site that Inman showed to be hosting his comics without attribution. The lawsuit was clearly ridiculous, and Inman, clearly in the right, took the opportunity to attract even more positive press for The Oatmeal, leveraging his audience to accumulate over $200,000 in charity donations to the American Cancer Society and National Wildlife Federation. It’s not entirely clear what the sudden charity push had to do with the lawsuit, but after the money had been donated online, Inman withdrew a similar sum of money sitting in his own bank account and took photos of himself with it to post online (before re-depositing it) to further gloat about the annihilation of Carreon in the court of public opinion, aided by the moral authority of his large audience.

In May, 2012, I had picked up a new client, the humor website, “FunnyJunk.com.” I was writing the usual website terms-of-service and related documents for a social networking website, basically emulating Facebook’s way of doing things, following the leader in terms of best practices for dealing with community conflicts, abuse, and of course the DMCA takedown policy. It had all been going quite nicely with the client being very prompt in communicating and with sending wire transfers. Who knew humor could be so profitable? It appeared it was, using my usual gauge for how much money clients made, i.e., how much they dickered about my fee. Not long after all the routine work was done, the client asked me to look at this webpage on TheOatmeal.com, slagging FunnyJunk. Excellent. More work. Happy to do it.

What follows is a retrospective diary of the consequences of me doing that work, that I hope gives the flavor of the raw immediacy with which the recorded events proceeded. By retrospective, I mean that this diary wasn’t really written contemporaneously with the events, but is an effort to recreate the feel of the moment by using the diary format. (Occasional references to the events that have occurred since the “date” of the diary entry give this away.) Accordingly, this “diary” is not a reliable reference for exactly what I did and thought on any given day, and is just intended to try to recreate for the reader the first-person experience of a person suffering a DIRA against themselves.

May 30, 2012

Today I will make a major change in my life, but I don’t know I’m doing it. It feels like any other day. I sit in the cantina next to the pool and work on my laptop. Every now and then I take a dip to cool off. I check tasks off the list. I get to this one: “Check out The Oatmeal’s post about FunnyJunk.” I check it out. The post is literally inaccurate in asserting that FJ is engaging in copyright infringement at a whole list of links, because all the links go straight to 404 not found. I ask the client if they took all the infringing content down once they saw the post, about a year ago, and the answer is “yes, we took it down, but he never complained to us, never sent a DMCA notice.”

May 31, 2012

I dig into the Oatmeal project with more focus, screencapping source-code, and drafting a cease and desist letter. I do background research on Matt Inman, who seems like any of many people who have learned to scam traffic with hidden codes and links. His humor is not to my taste, although it turns the corners of my mouth. I can see why the users posting at FunnyJunk would post copies of it and make comments about them. I get that Inman has a mob of followers who are still impressed with the fact that they can manipulate their own joystick. I consider, but not deeply enough, the possibility that Inman’s army of pizza-and-soda-smeared console-humpers could pose some kind of threat.

June 1, 2012

I assemble all the screencaps into exhibits. I finalize the draft into a decent C & D for this insolent fellow. I decide to include a screencap of the pterodactyl in the source code of Inman’s webpage and its weird, coded-in threat to “ptero you a new asshole.” That sort of defines weird, hidden aggression, and has overtones of conjuration and magic that are rather sinister. Hidden texts with secret meanings?

Inman seems like a guy who got shorted on parental affection. At this point, I don’t realize that Inman’s mom is a New Age right-wing-white-lighter, but it wouldn’t have affected me much. After all, people so reared can be delightful. But not in this case.

It takes a wee bit of detective work to find Inman’s street address, decide it’s a residence, and arrange for personal delivery of the C & D. I find a process server in Seattle and call him up, get his price for service, and the arrow is nocked in the string. Tomorrow I play Cupid.

June 2, 2012

I get a voice mail from the process server. He served Inman at his home at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night. I didn’t ask for that type of extra-annoying intrusion. Some process servers just like to twist the knife, or maybe he was busy earlier that night having a good time. Whatever, Inman got served with a nice, fat C & D, over a hundred pages of screencaps attached, with the now-infamous $20,000 demand. I figure Inman will send this all to a lawyer, and I’ll have a chat with a fellow-professional who’ll tell me there’s no $20,000 for me, but the accusations of copyright infringement and the dead links purporting to be links to infringing content will be removed. It’s always amazing to see how some people, like Inman, know all these dandy tricks for fucking with their adversaries while pasting themselves on the top of a Google search page. I, of course, assume that I am immune to his methods. Why I so assume is the mystery.

June 11, 2012 7:13 p.m.

This is like watching a hurricane blowing in from the coast. FunnyJunk’s management told me the trolling had started, a mass run at the website by hordes of pizza-and-soda-smeared zombies incited into a frenzy of console-humping by Inman’s cartoon of my mom “seducing a Kodiak bear,” the visual motif of the “Bear Love Campaign” that Inman had started to raise $20K in spite donations to the NWF and ACS, because like cancer, nasty lawyers suck, and like bears, that are good, Inman is entitled to eat his enemies for breakfast. I go to the Oatmeal and see the picture of “my mom” — 800 lbs. in a red bikini, making crazy goo goo eyes at a bear that’s probably gonna eat her for breakfast. My mom didn’t have a bikini. She died in her navy blue one-piece swimsuit right before my eyes.

There is a red film spreading over my entire mind. Something has unfortunately totally blown loose in my psyche. I cannot hear my superego wailing like a lost soul left behind by the fast-departing troop train of my id, with my ego in the engineer’s cabin, calling for every bit of steam he can get.

June 11, 2012 11:10 p.m.

Speech emerged from our need to articulate grievances. At some point, yelling and pushing was no longer enough, and smacking on the head with stones just hurt too damn much, and we had to find a way to talk about it. It began with grunts and growls. Or maybe pleas for mercy. Maybe the first time a voice kept a stone from breaking a head, that was speech. Yes, I think that would be.

But I can’t speak a word that will stop anonymous cybervandals from posting phony Amazon reviews panning my book, giving my girls shit on Twitter, trying to take down my websites, sending me hatemail, signing me up for free email offers, ordering me pizza, sending me bags of poop, certificates of jerkdom, and really, the kindest one, a free package of Attends. It’s at times like these that having a deep understanding of the universe and an abiding trust in the universe’s merciful nature comes in really handy.

But eventually, sanctity wears thin and you start to seethe.

June 11, 2012

I look at the Bear Love campaign on Indiegogo.com and it makes me gag. What the fuck ever happened to people that a guy with a website and a sick sense of humor can say “Gimme $20 grand to teach this asshole a lesson,” and they say, “Oh, yeah, we’ll do that, and 10X besides!” There is, of course, something wrong here. People may be that stupid, but the law isn’t. Inman and Indiegogo are breaking the law.

It is getting on towards late afternoon, and my head is pounding. I get in the Prius and start driving West, towards the setting sun. I almost let the car drive itself, just drifting west on Speedway, listening to Frank Black. I keep replaying, “White Noisemaker.”

“I heard a lotta talk
So I’m goin’ to the stereo store,
And get a white noisemaker
Turn it up to 10.
Yakkety-yak is back
Again.”

Gradually, working my way through the post-rush-hour traffic, letting everything in my head subside, the pounding stops. I’m breathing now, watching the reds and oranges and blues of the spreading dusk.

Now I know where I’m going. I’m going to Gates Pass on the other side of Tucson, headed towards Mexico, in the light and radio shadow of Tucson, on the far side of a big, sculpted rock that has a road running down its western slope, steep as a stairway in places. As you wind down the slope, halfway down this big rock, there’s a pullout and trails lead up the rock. It’s a popular place to watch the sunset. Probably a popular place to do drug deals, too. The setup looks perfect, with lots of visibility coming and going, especially to the west. I could imagine one of my old Federal defender clients being popped here. Ah, would that I were still engaged in such unpretentious pursuits as representing real criminals. Instead, I’ve devolved to this level of policing Internet speech of various types. The pure commerciality of it does appeal to me, of course. And actually, visiting prisons, jails, and seeing your clients in green pajamas or orange jumpsuits, with their hands cuffed to their bellies, is a pretty big downer.

I park the Prius and walk up the hill a ways, just to get away from the other people and their voices. It’s gorgeous, and I keep thinking about how as soon as I get back to the office, I’m going to research California law on charitable fundraising. Inman can’t just grab the names of the NWF and the American Cancer Society and start raising money in their name. I’ll call NWF and ACS and find out. I text a couple of notes to my email to remind myself of these ideas, and put them aside for the moment.

I’m here to exert control over this compulsive thinking and rethinking of the situation. I’m leaving behind that useless process of reliving emotions that I’ve already experienced dozens of times. I’m doing something useful. I’m putting myself together from the inside out. I’m not going to use my awareness to listen to words that are intended to anger me. If I’m going to be angry, I’ll be angry for my own reasons. And maybe I’m not going to be angry at all.

In each battle, Clausewitz says, the entire weight of the battle settles on the general. The general’s ability to bear that weight is the difference between victory and a rout. In my own wars, I’m everyone from the pawn to the King, so I always bear the burden of the entire conflict. Some may not see how being engaged in constant warfare could leave you feeling any way but massively insecure, but eventually, if you take to the lifestyle, living in conflict is much more comfortable than constantly eating shit. Shit tastes bad, but once you get used to eating it, everyone will assume you like it, and they’ll just feed you more.

But how do we fight tirelessly? How do we get the energy to declare and fight wars, i.e., to file lawsuits and invest all the scores of hours of difficult brain-work that carrying off litigation requires? How do we deal with the scary work of facing off against intelligent adversaries, being paid nicely, who desire only our legal demise at the earliest possible date? We adopt warrior ethics.

Of course, few people know what ethics are, and they probably think warrior ethics are terribly fierce and semi-barbaric. Not so. Warrior ethics are about preserving the prize while fighting the battle for possession. And the foremost prize, the one you already possess and never want to lose, is basic human decency. That is what I take from the lesson of the enlightenment experience of Morhei Uyeshiba, the founder of Aikido, of whom I’ve been a student for 44 years, since I first saw his face at the age of 13, on the altar of Sensei Takagi’s dojo, two blocks from my house.

Uyeshiba was a very accomplished martial arts master, who transformed the dignified, expansive movements of samurai fencing into a way to dance your adversary to defeat. In Aikido, punches and kicks are thrown, but only to teach students how to defend against them. All Aikido victories are gained by deflecting or evading the attack, leading the adversary along the line of force established by their attack, and either tossing them a safe distance away or sweeping them to the floor, and immobilizing them with a jiu-jitsu-style wrist or elbow lock. Aikido’s been good to me in a couple of motorcycle accidents, when knowing how to fly and land without injury comes in handy. Once your body absorbs the lessons of Aikido, the logic of nonresistance becomes quite compelling.

So I’m thinking about Clausewitz and the weight of the battle falling on me. And I’m thinking about Uyeshiba, and how he got enlightened, not like the Buddha, sitting under a tree, but like a warrior, after a battle in which he most notably didn’t abuse his superior martial arts abilities, and instead, faced the danger of a naked sword without unsheathing his own. As the story goes, Uyeshiba was at his dojo when an angry young man arrived with his sword and challenged him to duel, claiming that Uyeshiba had insulted him in some way. Uyeshiba simply evaded the young man’s attacks until at last, exhausted and unable to continue, he gave up the fight. Uyeshiba walked outside and stood under a fruit tree in bloom. A light descended from heaven suffusing the tree and passing through Uyeshiba’s entire body, filling him with the knowledge that “the Spirit of the Universe is the spirit of love and protection of all beings.”

Uyeshiba walked the walk, so I listen when he talks. Not to strike a blow. Yes, I love the story. But it’s not the way I operate. I’m gonna sue that bastard.

-- The Real Diary of Charles Carreon, by Charles Carreon


Now that he’s accumulated this mass audience, he’s begun to toy with its power. He’s said he wants a seven-figure income; he’s talked about writing comedy or becoming an animator. And his peers are watching with a mixture of interest and fear.

“He’s like Elvis right now, swinging his hips, and we’re all still doing the Buddy Holly thing,” said Nicholas Gurewitch, the cartoonist behind the webcomic The Perry Bible Fellowship. “Not say we’re going to die in a plane crash. We’ll be just fine. Unless Inman takes over the world. Which he could do.”

Update: A previous version of this piece linked to a profile that implied Inman was married, had children, and holds certain political beliefs. The profile is a fake. Inman refused to comment for this story, but posted an extended challenge to it on his website.

Jack Stuef is, among other things, a contributor to The Onion and New York Magazine’s The Cut. He tweets here.
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Re: The Secrets of the Internet's Most Beloved Viral Markete

Postby admin » Mon Sep 16, 2013 4:39 pm

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:Dear readers,

I wish I could ignore this kind of crap. I wish I could just make comics and write funny things.

This article by a contributing BuzzFeed author is so blatantly wrong it borders on being libelous. It's been getting a ton of exposure and I can't let this go without defending myself.

If you don't like reading long things and just want the TL;DR version of this, jump to the very bottom where it says "Dear Jack Stuef." Or just click here.

A few years ago I wrote a comic for one of my readers who had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Image

3 Reasons Tumors are Assholes (for Dave)

Dear Dave,

A friend of yours emailed me and said you were recently diagnosed with brain cancer. Being an Oatmeal fan, I thought I'd try to lift your spirits with this little comic.

It was really tough to try and pull humor out of a subject as serious as cancer, so I apologize if it's not very funny! (or if it's kind of offensive)

-- The Oatmeal

1. Most things know when to stop growing. A tumor does not.

[Dinosaur] Hi, I'm a Brontosaurus. I'm big as fuck and I take dumps the size of Volkswagens, but eventually I'll stop getting bigger.

[Tumor] Hi, I'm a tumor. I'm what happens when cells get all stupid and decide to keep growing for no damn reason at all. I'm like Genghis Khan meets a hemorrhoid!


The day PRIOR to the rape joke incident, I received word that Dave lost his battle with cancer and passed away. The day OF the rape joke incident, my sister gave birth to a baby girl and I missed it because I'd flown to Denver on my own dime to attend a charity event for someone who donated to the Tesla Museum.

I am NOT saying any of these things excuse my behavior, or justify acting like a childish prick and "defending" a rape joke.

BUT at the time I genuinely felt like I'd done more good in the world than bad, and I acted like an asshole when I saw myself being vilified for making one bad joke on the internet.

I'm a Democrat and I voted for Barack Obama both times.

"As inoffensive as possible"

Jesus, have you ever actually READ my comics? I've written (and continue to write) jokes about abortion, murder, urine, boners, poverty, and panda bears shitting on infants. I actually removed my email address from my website several years ago due to all the hate mail and death threats.

Oh for fuck's sake, I did SEO for a few months in my early 20s, sucked at it, and got banned by Google.

Now every time some lazy journalist wants to attack me they accuse me of being some Dark Lord of SEO spam, even though they don't even know what SEO is.

I hated SEO when I did it, and I hate it now. I did it for a few months to escape my 9-5 office job, and to this day it still stains my career as an "SEO spammer."

Two things: first off, I didn't rickroll reddit because of the satirical comic. I did it because every time I got on the reddit homepage I'd get a flood hate mail containing things like "go kill yourself" and "you're an unfunny faggot." I know this doesn't speak for the entire reddit community but instead just a subset of shitty little trolls, but at the time it soured the entire community in my eyes.

Second thing: it wasn't technically a rickroll. I alternated between redirecting them to Snow's "Informer" and Cher's "Do you believe in life after love?"

I found these two songs to be much more effective in troll combat.

HEY JACKASS, want to know what I did with that money?

My sister has six kids, FIVE of which are adopted and two of those adopted children are disabled.

These are foster children, some of whom came from druggy parents and broken households.

My sister got a divorce a few years ago and wound up moving into a tiny rental with her one bio kid and five adopted children, so I paid $250,000 cash and bought my sister a house.

You didn't find this in your "investigation" of my finances because I never talk about it. I don't use it to market myself as a philanthropist or some shit like that.

I did it because I love my sister. I love those kids, and it was the right fucking thing to do.

You realize that 99.9% of my comics are completely free, right?

Sprawling retain business?!

Here's a list of my employees:

1. Me
2. My assistant (hired a few months ago)
3. My mom
4. My stepfather
5. A retired Navy officer (friend of my Mom's)
6. Two other retired folks (also friends of my Mom's)

So if by "sprawling retain business" you mean a handful of retired folks working out of my mom's house in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, then yes we're basically the next Walmart.

You don't know know me,
you don't know my life,
and you don't know my family.
So shut the fuck up.

I don't have a publicist. I just wrote that on the website as a fancy title for someone who helps filter out incoming emails. When I "declined" an interview, what actually happened was you emailed my MOTHER and she had no idea what Buzzfeed was, so she said no.

Unlike this Buzzfeed article, which has NOTHING to do with getting lots of page views.

I stick to that statement. No VC funding. No expensive offices. No huge lofty goals. I just want to make comics and get paid for it. The less complicated the better.

I'm not a real millionaire, but you're not a real writer so I suppose it's okay for you to use conjecture here.

Oh for fuck's sake let's recap. I did SEO for 6 months in my early 20s, sucked at it, and got banned by Google. End of SEO.

You don't watch much standup, do you? Most of this is basically just comedy 101.

The program I draw comics with can't spell-check because it's a drawing program, so I often miss things that are the result of being "typo blind" after working on a comic for several hours. A friend of mine sometimes proofreads my longer comics before I publish them.

I really only did this when I used to write grammar comics, because it's REALLY goddamn hard to make a topic like semicolons or apostrophes funny, so I'd just throw in a bunch of bears and poop jokes and call it good.

Again, have you ever actually READ my comics? Look up my comic "How to name an abortion clinic," watch "The Motherfucking Pterodactyl," or read the blog post where I argue why we should be eating horses instead of riding them.

Even my recent comic "How to suck at your religion" resulted in a mass exodus of fans who thought I was being too preachy about my atheism.

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This is a fake profile. I've never even heard of this website. I didn't create this profile.

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This is not me. I have no idea who this lady is but I'm sure she's quite nice in person.

I'm not married and I don't have kids.

I still don't have kids.

You mean other than making fun of Mitt Romney on Twitter the entire night, and posting a celebratory photo when Obama won? I was happy that Obama won and that's why I posted that picture. I knew it'd be unpopular with my Republican readers, but I said fuck it and did it anyway.

Did you actually attempt to write an honest review of my work, or did you just go around the internet looking for examples of things that reaffirm the fact that you don't like me very much?

All of this is completely moot because Jack Stuef is a shitty writer who doesn't fact check.

Yep, the less details in my characters the better. Gary Larson of The Far Side was known for drawing his characters as these kind of fat oval people, and he often concealed the pupils of eyes to make his characters funnier. South park does the same thing -- everyone is a fat little oval. This is why most of my characters look like bloated albino babies. It lends to the comedy. Perry Bible Fellowship does the same thing.

The final panel to this comic has been removed.

I've made jokes about genocide, war, third world starvation, death, killing the elderly, sodomy, and infanticide, but apparently saying "Every time the internet does not perform as expected, I rape the shit out of my F5 key" was too offensive for many people. Ever since Daniel Tosh made an ass out of himself by making a shitty, unfunny rape joke onstage, now anytime a comedian says the word rape everyone jumps out of their seats in protest.

I don't want to eternally have to keep reading complaints about the final panel to this comic, so I've removed it. Apparently calling my F5 key a rape victim is on the naughty word list by too many people. Never mind the fact that I actually put my money where my mouth is and donated a $1,000 of my own money to a battered women's group earlier this year, what appears to be more important to most people is that I strictly adhere to G-rated vocabulary.

To all those who complained thank you for censoring me. It worked. You can go back to reading The Family Circus now.

You seem to be confusing pandering with just making funny shit. If I make jokes for a living, and I start making jokes that no one gets, then I wouldn't be very good at my job. now would I?

Also, regarding the running thing. I ended up writing about it anyway. Running an ultramarathon was an incredible experience, so once again I said fuck being relatable and published a comic about it.

..."and nearly all I talked to said they were happy to have him part of it."

Yeah, those same cartoonists emailed me and said that you've basically spent the past several months trolling them for bad quotes about me. Came up empty, did you?

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I GOT SUED, YOU IDIOT.

My fundraiser against Carreon was an act of self defense, not some orchestrated stunt to gloat about a bunch of money that didn't belong to me.

If you chat with Nicholas again tell him I love him and he's always been a huge inspiration to me.

We'll get to that momentarily.

Dear Jack Stuef:

You point out the comics that pander, but gloss over the ones that don't.

You reveal all these "secrets," which are things I've been publicly saying for years to aspiring writers.

You ignore the fact that 99.9% of the reason I have so many readers is because I MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH.

You question the integrity of my writing, and you do it on BuzzFeed.

Seriously, BUZZFEED.

This is not an honest review of my work, you just cherry-picked the things that fit your "Let's vilify a cartoonist" story.

This is pageview journalism.

This is character assassination.

And this is shit.

I can do it too. Want to watch?

Here you are, Mr. Stuef

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You seem like a nice enough dude.

OH WAIT!

Here's a birthday card you made last year for Sarah Palin's mentally disabled son:

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I found it on your former employer's website.

In this card, you satirized a birthday poem Palin fans had written for three year old on a social-networking site the night before.

You started with this:

"Oh little boy, what are you dreaming about?"

and then you wrote:

"What's he dreaming about? Nothing. He's retarded."

Nice one, Jack!

Making fun of a toddler with down syndrome!



Is that what this whole "Let's demonize The Oatmeal" thing is all about?

You're bitter because after publishing that birthday card the backlash was so bad you had to leave your job, and now you write for BuzzFeed?

Don't be bitter. If you make a shitty joke, learn from it, keep moving forward, and write better jokes.

Or in your case, maybe just stop being a writer, you bitter, uninspired, bottom-feeding ass.

Hugs and kisses!!
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Re: The Secrets of the Internet's Most Beloved Viral Markete

Postby admin » Mon Sep 16, 2013 4:42 pm

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by Matt Inman, theoatmeal.com

The Secrets Of The Internet’s Most Beloved Viral Marketer

Matthew Inman’s site, The Oatmeal, is one of the biggest comics on the Web. Why the “envy of nearly every cartoonist” is suddenly under siege.

posted on December 7, 2012 at 12:16pm EST
by Jack Stuef
BuzzFeed Contributor

Matt Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:http://theoatmeal.com/blog/jack_stuef

Dear readers,

I wish I could ignore this kind of crap. I wish I could just make comics and write funny things.

This article by a contributing BuzzFeed author is so blatantly wrong it borders on being libelous. It's been getting a ton of exposure and I can't let this go without defending myself.

If you don't like reading long things and just want the TL;DR version of this, jump to the very bottom where it says "Dear Jack Stuef." Or just click here.

Matthew Inman boasts that his site, The Oatmeal, has received over a billion page views since he launched it in 2009, making it one of most widely read comics in the world. But Inman bears little relation to his lumpy everyman profile on the site, and the disconnect between that cheerful profile and his actual identity — an edgy comic and unapologetic online operator — collided this week after a rape joke made its way into his typically safe comic.

In this comic, Inman described the role of different keys on the keyboard. F5, he said, was the “rape victim” of the group. “I MUST VIOLATE YOU OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN!” a rapist blob monster said to the F5 key as it ran away crying.

Inman quickly found that he’s now too big to jest about sexual violence in the language of Reddit. The Internet was quick to trash the comic.

His own fans quickly took him to task on The Oatmeal’s Facebook page. “Really, in your awesomeness and creativity, you couldn’t come up with something better than a rape ‘joke’?” one asked. “I expected more from you.”

At first Inman ignored the criticism, but by Tuesday, he felt enough heat to remove the panel with the rape joke. But he added a comment at the bottom complaining that comedians like himself are no longer allowed to say the word “rape.” Defensively, Inman said he’s previously “donated $1,000 of my own money to a battered women’s group.”

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The removed panel from Inman’s comic theoatmeal.com / Via elevatorgate.wordpress.com

“To all those who complained: thank you for censoring me,” he wrote. “It worked.”

He had to walk that sneering response back, too, writing on Twitter that both the comic and the comment were “fucking stupid.” He finally said he was sorry, then quit Twitter for the day. The comic is no longer listed on his website’s homepage, though it remains accessible with the last panel removed.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:A few years ago I wrote a comic for one of my readers who had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

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3 Reasons Tumors are Assholes (for Dave)
Dear Dave,
A friend of yours emailed me and said you were recently diagnosed with brain cancer. Being an Oatmeal fan, I thought I'd try to lift your spirits with this little comic.
It was really tough to try and pull humor out of a subject as serious as cancer, so I apologize if it's not very funny! (or if it's kind of offensive)
-- The Oatmeal
1. Most things know when to stop growing. A tumor does not.
[Dinosaur] Hi, I'm a Brontosaurus. I'm big as fuck and I take dumps the size of Volkswagens, but eventually I'll stop getting bigger.
[Tumor] Hi, I'm a tumor. I'm what happens when cells get all stupid and decide to keep growing for no damn reason at all. I'm like Genghis Khan meets a hemorrhoid!

The day PRIOR to the rape joke incident, I received word that Dave lost his battle with cancer and passed away. The day OF the rape joke incident, my sister gave birth to a baby girl and I missed it because I'd flown to Denver on my own dime to attend a charity event for someone who donated to the Tesla Museum.

I am NOT saying any of these things excuse my behavior, or justify acting like a childish prick and "defending" a rape joke.

BUT at the time I genuinely felt like I'd done more good in the world than bad, and I acted like an asshole when I saw myself being vilified for making one bad joke on the internet.


Inman is finding what big American businesses have known for decades: Keeping your mouth shut is generally better for business. [He has long maintained a clear divide between The Oatmeal and his hard-edged Republicanism.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:I'm a Democrat and I voted for Barack Obama both times.


But] Inman [also] embodies a generation of online publishing entrepreneurs who came up as independent figures, with a touch of the outlaw. On one hand, Inman sees himself as a comedian, an artist who has to answer to nobody, a guy who works for himself and is thus finally free to mock people who dislike his work. But on the other hand, The Oatmeal has always been first and foremost a business, designed by a formula to be as popular and inoffensive as possible to the social-media-sharing Internet public.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:"As inoffensive as possible"

Jesus, have you ever actually READ my comics? I've written (and continue to write) jokes about abortion, murder, urine, boners, poverty, and panda bears shitting on infants. I actually removed my email address from my website several years ago due to all the hate mail and death threats.


And making rape jokes is bad for business.

Unlike most cartoonists, online and off, Inman, 30, came to the profession by way of one of the Internet’s most-hated practices: Search engine optimization tricks.

Inman, back when The Guardian speculated in 2008 on whether he was a “genius…or a fiend,” was an online marketer who made his name devising quizzes and cartoons aimed at going viral on the web. But the real purpose of this linkbait was what was hidden inside: search-engine keywords and links to his clients’ websites, an underhanded tactic meant to shoot them to the top of Google.

Inman’s transformation from a reviled search-engine-optimization expert and marketer to a beloved comic artist was less dramatic than it sounds. Inman has described The Oatmeal as a kind of continuation of his Internet marketing work. He’s still making cartoons and quizzes carefully configured to go viral, but instead of doing it for clients, he’s now lining his pockets directly. And on The Oatmeal, he hosts some comics and quizzes originally created for SEO traffic right alongside work created originally for the site.

“With The Oatmeal, I wanted to create something where the viral marketing itself was the product, rather than trying to put it on something else,” he said in an interview two years ago.

Inman’s SEO work was successful, but he was always beholden to the whims of Google, which doesn’t appreciate schemers looking to game its search engine, and shut down one of his most effective tricks, hiding the term “free online dating” in unrelated quizzes.

With a webcomic, though, Inman doesn’t have to rely on outrunning the Google police. Instead, he focused from the start on the conversations on other, more human, platforms.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:Oh for fuck's sake, I did SEO for a few months in my early 20s, sucked at it, and got banned by Google.

Now every time some lazy journalist wants to attack me they accuse me of being some Dark Lord of SEO spam, even though they don't even know what SEO is.

I hated SEO when I did it, and I hate it now. I did it for a few months to escape my 9-5 office job, and to this day it still stains my career as an "SEO spammer."


“At the beginning, I assumed that, to be successful, I had to sort of pander to these ideas that were coming out of Digg,” Inman told an interviewer this month. Digg, of course, is no longer the social media giant it once was, but posting his comics there was responsible for much of his early success. Inman said he regrets that blatant pandering now, but his comics still seem to be written according to that formula — simply pointed at Reddit, Digg’s bigger spiritual descendent.

But Inman has had a complicated relationship with Reddit. Two years ago, Redditors discovered he had been posting his comics to the site himself, and, in his past job as an Internet marketer, had posted his linkbait quizzes and comic infographics designed to draw traffic to his SEO clients. If there’s one thing Reddit hates, it’s spammers, and after Inman’s Reddit activity was outed in a thread for a webcomic satirizing The Oatmeal’s pandering, there was a veritable Reddit backlash against his comic.

Inman reacted by rickrolling readers who had been linked to The Oatmeal from Reddit.


Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:Two things: first off, I didn't rickroll reddit because of the satirical comic. I did it because every time I got on the reddit homepage I'd get a flood hate mail containing things like "go kill yourself" and "you're an unfunny faggot." I know this doesn't speak for the entire reddit community but instead just a subset of shitty little trolls, but at the time it soured the entire community in my eyes.

Second thing: it wasn't technically a rickroll. I alternated between redirecting them to Snow's "Informer" and Cher's "Do you believe in life after love?"

I found these two songs to be much more effective in troll combat.

Soon he stopped, and Reddit, apparently unable to resist a webcomic from a sharp traffic guru aimed squarely at them, resumed serving as a major source of traffic. But the damage was done. Inman mocked his critics, but in the end, when his bottom line was threatened, his business sense forced him to capitulate.
.vimeo.com
A year after starting The Oatmeal, Inman said he was already making half a million dollars in profit a year annually from the site.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:HEY JACKASS, want to know what I did with that money?

My sister has six kids, FIVE of which are adopted and two of those adopted children are disabled.

These are foster children, some of whom came from druggy parents and broken households.

My sister got a divorce a few years ago and wound up moving into a tiny rental with her one bio kid and five adopted children, so I paid $250,000 cash and bought my sister a house.

You didn't find this in your "investigation" of my finances because I never talk about it. I don't use it to market myself as a philanthropist or some shit like that.

I did it because I love my sister. I love those kids, and it was the right fucking thing to do.


He’s been able to monetize that traffic by exploiting the webcomic model.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:You realize that 99.9% of my comics are completely free, right?


Readers are willing to buy T-shirts from webcomic artists or donate to their virtual tip jars at least partly for altruistic reasons — unlike commercial creatives, they depend on the patronage of their readers to make a living with their art.

Inman plays into this myth of the solitary, struggling webcomic artist, calling The Oatmeal a “one man operation,” though he employs family members to run his sprawling retail business.

Matthew Inman, the oatmeal.com wrote:Sprawling retain business?!

Here's a list of my employees:

1. Me
2. My assistant (hired a few months ago)
3. My mom
4. My stepfather
5. A retired Navy officer (friend of my Mom's)
6. Two other retired folks (also friends of my Mom's)

So if by "sprawling retain business" you mean a handful of retired folks working out of my mom's house in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, then yes we're basically the next Walmart.

You don't know me,
you don't know my life,
and you don't know my family.
So shut the fuck up.


When Inman declined to be interviewed for this story, the word did not come from Inman himself, but from his publicist.

Matthew Inman, the oatmeal.com wrote:I don't have a publicist. I just wrote that on the website as a fancy title for someone who helps filter out incoming emails. When I "declined" an interview, what actually happened was you emailed my MOTHER and she had no idea what Buzzfeed was, so she said no.


Unlike that of most successful webcomic artists, Inman’s work was not originally a labor of love, a slow process of honing one’s voice, developing an original perspective and take on the art form, and eventually building an audience. It was always business, always a play to known sources of Web traffic, whether for clients or for himself.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:Unlike this Buzzfeed article, which has NOTHING to do with getting lots of page views.


In interviews with mainstream publications, he strongly denies this. Being perceived as part of the webcomic community is vital to his bottom line, and Inman certainly wants to be seen that way. “I’m totally opposed to making this a company.

Matthew Inman, the oatmeal.com wrote:I stick to that statement. No VC funding. No expensive offices. No huge lofty goals. I just want to make comics and get paid for it. The less complicated the better.


I just don’t have it in me,” the apparent millionaire told his hometown alt paper, the Seattle Weekly.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:I'm not a real millionaire, but you're not a real writer so I suppose it's okay for you to use conjecture here.


When given the opportunity to speak in front of business-minded audiences, however, the former SEO mastermind has been unable to hold himself back.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:Oh for fuck's sake let's recap. I did SEO for 6 months in my early 20s, sucked at it, and got banned by Google. End of SEO


Speaking before a tech conference audience at Gnomedex in Seattle in 2010, Inman delivered a 27-minute presentation explaining his process for creating a comic or quiz for his website. His comics, the slideshow says, are created according to a formula aimed at pandering to the broad tastes of the Internet and social media, based on six core principles:

- Find a common gripe
- Pick things everyone can relate to
- Create easily digestible content
- Create an infographic
- Talk about memes and current events
- Incite an emotion

Matthew Inman, the oatmeal.com wrote:You don't watch much standup, do you? Most of this is basically just comedy 101.


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Inman’s “gripe” comics take ideas that are already being expressed by certain constituencies around the Internet and simply put them in comic form. For example, many people get irked by the incorrect use of grammar and spelling, so he writes explanatory comics on this subject to attract that traffic. Inman has admitted in multiple interviews that spelling and grammar are not actually interests of his, but the comics get traffic (and sell a lot of posters to schools, ads for which appear at the bottom of each of those comics), and he works with an editor to correct his own use of language in those comics.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:The program I draw comics with can't spell-check because it's a drawing program, so I often miss things that are the result of being "typo blind" after working on a comic for several hours. A friend of mine sometimes proofreads my longer comics before I publish them.


For “infographics,” he gathers groups of factoids together, making readers more likely to share because they feel like they’re learning something interesting. Inman also says one of his main comedic strategies involves taking a noun and attaching funny words to it, or taking a list of nouns and drawing lines to between them. It’s not unlike a fourth grader filling out a Mad Lib, one critic observed.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:I really only did this when I used to write grammar comics, because it's REALLY goddamn hard to make a topic like semicolons or apostrophes funny, so I'd just throw in a bunch of bears and poop joks and call it good.


By and large, Inman plays it safe. He doesn’t write comics about things he doesn’t already know are popular on the Web. Before the rape joke, there was scant evidence he held any opinion truly unpopular on the Internet.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:Again, have you ever actually READ my comics? Look up my comic "How to name an abortion clinic," watch "The Motherfucking Pterodactyl," or read the blog post where I argue why we should be eating horses instead of riding them.

Even my recent comic "How to suck at your religion" resulted in a mass exodus of fans who thought I was being too preachy about my atheism.


[But on his obscure personal profile on the opinion website SodaHead, he's let loose a bit.]

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:This is a fake profile. I've never even heard of this website. I didn't create this profile.

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This is not me. I have no idea who this lady is but I'm sure she's quite nice in person.

[img]http://rapeutation.com/necessaryevil.23l_small.gif]


[Among other things, Inman says he is a staunch Republican. "My little daughter even said to me not too long ago, "Daddy, does Obama care for us children?" Inman wrote, "My reply: 'No.'" In a thread he started expressing concern for his children's future due to President Obama, he imagined a conversation he will have to have with his daughters some day: "I'm sorry sweeties, even though we have money ... We can't send you to college because we pay to wipe our president's ass."]

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:I'm not married and I don't have kids.


[If he is that deeply concerned about Obama ruining his children's lives, you'd never know it from The Oatmeal.]

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:I still don't have kids.


[During the election season this year, he occasionally tweeted or posted to Facebook jokes about Obama and Mitt Romney, but nothing that revealed any political opinions. On election night, he posted an image of Obama with the text "Ohio Gozaimasu, Bitches!" Inman didn't publicly offer a take on whether he believed Obama's re-election was good or bad for the country, but the image was alluringly shareable for readers celebrating Obama's win.]

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:You mean other than making fun of Mitt Romney on Twitter the entire night, and posting a celebratory photo when Obama won? I was happy that Obama won and that's why I posted that picture. I knew it'd be unpopular with my Republican readers, but I said fuck it and did it anyway.

Did you actually attempt to write an honest review of my work, or did you just go around the internet looking for examples of things that reaffirm the fact that you don't like me very much?

All of this is completely moot because Jack Stuef is a shitty writer who doesn't fact check.


Inman is also a fitness buff. Though he draws himself on The Oatmeal as a blob of a man, he’s actually young and attractive. Inman has said he draws himself that way because attractive, detailed characters are less “relatable” for his audience.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:Yep, the less details in my characters the better. Gary Larson of The Far Side was known for drawing his characters as these kind of fat oval people, and he often concealed the pupils of eyes to make his characters funnier. South park does the same thing -- everyone is a fat little oval. This is why most of my characters look like bloated albino babies. It lends to the comedy. Perry Bible Fellowship does the same thing.


In an interview with Men’s Health Singapore, he detailed some of his running feats, including completing an ultra-marathon of 50 miles, and explained why he doesn’t draw comics about a subject that interests him so deeply.

“I would love to make a comic about ultra running,” Inman said. “But not many people can say, ‘Oh, yeah, I totally know what that feels like, running a hundred miles.’ Similarly, I wanted to make a comic about snowboarding because I love snowboarding. But I don’t know if enough of my readers will get it. So I try to limit my comics to the stuff on everybody’s frequency.”

Inman’s version of a creative risk came recently; instead of just pandering to the Internet’s love of cats, he made a comic about his dog. “That was in my notebook for two years,” Inman said. “I thought, this is no good, people don’t — dogs aren’t funny. You can’t make dogs funny. It’s impossible. People can’t relate.” He said he published the comic in “embarrassment,” but it turns out the Internet also likes dogs. The comic has been “liked” over 600,000 times on Facebook.

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Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:The final panel to this comic has been removed.

I've made jokes about genocide, war, third world starvation, death, killing the elderly, sodomy, and infanticide, but apparently saying "Every time the internet does not perform as expected, I rape the shit out of my F5 key" was too offensive for many people. Ever since Daniel Tosh made an ass out of himself by making a shitty, unfunny rape joke onstage, now anytime a comedian says the word rape everyone jumps out of their seats in protest.

I don't want to eternally have to keep reading complaints about the final panel to this comic, so I've removed it. Apparently calling my F5 key a rape victim is on the naughty word list by too many people. Nevermind the fact that I actually put my money where my mouth is and donated a $1,000 of my own money to a battered women's group earlier this year, what appears to be more important to most people is that I strictly adhere to G-rated vocabulary.

To all those who complained thank you for censoring me. It worked. You can go back to reading The Family Circus now.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:You seem to be confusing pandering with just making funny shit. If I make jokes for a living, and I start making jokes that no one gets, then I wouldn't be very good at my job. now would I?

Also, regarding the running thing. I ended up writing about it anyway. Running an ultramarathon was an incredible experience, so once again I said fuck being relatable and published a comic about it.


Inman has always focused on traffic, not comments or criticism. But until the rape controversy, Inman had never faced such sustained criticism from so many corners. And even if he has admitted to pandering, comic artists are an inclusive community, and nearly all I talked to said they were happy to have him part of it.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:..."and nearly all I talked to said they were happy to have him part of it."

Yeah, those same cartoonists emailed me and said that you've basically spent the past several months trolling them for bad quotes about me. Came up empty, did you?


“Inman’s large and loyal following (and their wallets) is the envy of nearly every cartoonist,” New York Times cartoonist Brian McFadden said in an e-mail. “Because he’s a relative newcomer, some of the old farts are jealous and bitch and moan by saying ‘I could do that.’ Well, they didn’t.”

That loyal following lends him a special power, one Inman has taken advantage of on a couple of occasions recently, both according to a standard Internet-attention-grabbing script. He may be able to attract criticism, but he’s also shrewd about drawing in goodwill.

In June, Inman was sued by attorney Charles Carreon as part of a dispute with FunnyJunk, an aggregating site that Inman showed to be hosting his comics without attribution. The lawsuit was clearly ridiculous, and Inman, clearly in the right, took the opportunity to attract even more positive press for The Oatmeal, leveraging his audience to accumulate over $200,000 in charity donations to the American Cancer Society and National Wildlife Federation. It’s not entirely clear what the sudden charity push had to do with the lawsuit, but after the money had been donated online, Inman withdrew a similar sum of money sitting in his own bank account and took photos of himself with it to post online (before re-depositing it) to further gloat about the annihilation of Carreon in the court of public opinion, aided by the moral authority of his large audience.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:I GOT SUED, YOU IDIOT.

My fundraiser against Carreon was an act of self defense, not some orchestrated stunt to gloat about a bunch of money that didn't belong to me.


In May, 2012, I had picked up a new client, the humor website, “FunnyJunk.com.” I was writing the usual website terms-of-service and related documents for a social networking website, basically emulating Facebook’s way of doing things, following the leader in terms of best practices for dealing with community conflicts, abuse, and of course the DMCA takedown policy. It had all been going quite nicely with the client being very prompt in communicating and with sending wire transfers. Who knew humor could be so profitable? It appeared it was, using my usual gauge for how much money clients made, i.e., how much they dickered about my fee. Not long after all the routine work was done, the client asked me to look at this webpage on TheOatmeal.com, slagging FunnyJunk. Excellent. More work. Happy to do it.

What follows is a retrospective diary of the consequences of me doing that work, that I hope gives the flavor of the raw immediacy with which the recorded events proceeded. By retrospective, I mean that this diary wasn’t really written contemporaneously with the events, but is an effort to recreate the feel of the moment by using the diary format. (Occasional references to the events that have occurred since the “date” of the diary entry give this away.) Accordingly, this “diary” is not a reliable reference for exactly what I did and thought on any given day, and is just intended to try to recreate for the reader the first-person experience of a person suffering a DIRA against themselves.

May 30, 2012

Today I will make a major change in my life, but I don’t know I’m doing it. It feels like any other day. I sit in the cantina next to the pool and work on my laptop. Every now and then I take a dip to cool off. I check tasks off the list. I get to this one: “Check out The Oatmeal’s post about FunnyJunk.” I check it out. The post is literally inaccurate in asserting that FJ is engaging in copyright infringement at a whole list of links, because all the links go straight to 404 not found. I ask the client if they took all the infringing content down once they saw the post, about a year ago, and the answer is “yes, we took it down, but he never complained to us, never sent a DMCA notice.”

May 31, 2012

I dig into the Oatmeal project with more focus, screencapping source-code, and drafting a cease and desist letter. I do background research on Matt Inman, who seems like any of many people who have learned to scam traffic with hidden codes and links. His humor is not to my taste, although it turns the corners of my mouth. I can see why the users posting at FunnyJunk would post copies of it and make comments about them. I get that Inman has a mob of followers who are still impressed with the fact that they can manipulate their own joystick. I consider, but not deeply enough, the possibility that Inman’s army of pizza-and-soda-smeared console-humpers could pose some kind of threat.

June 1, 2012

I assemble all the screencaps into exhibits. I finalize the draft into a decent C & D for this insolent fellow. I decide to include a screencap of the pterodactyl in the source code of Inman’s webpage and its weird, coded-in threat to “ptero you a new asshole.” That sort of defines weird, hidden aggression, and has overtones of conjuration and magic that are rather sinister. Hidden texts with secret meanings?

Inman seems like a guy who got shorted on parental affection. At this point, I don’t realize that Inman’s mom is a New Age right-wing-white-lighter, but it wouldn’t have affected me much. After all, people so reared can be delightful. But not in this case.

It takes a wee bit of detective work to find Inman’s street address, decide it’s a residence, and arrange for personal delivery of the C & D. I find a process server in Seattle and call him up, get his price for service, and the arrow is nocked in the string. Tomorrow I play Cupid.

June 2, 2012

I get a voice mail from the process server. He served Inman at his home at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night. I didn’t ask for that type of extra-annoying intrusion. Some process servers just like to twist the knife, or maybe he was busy earlier that night having a good time. Whatever, Inman got served with a nice, fat C & D, over a hundred pages of screencaps attached, with the now-infamous $20,000 demand. I figure Inman will send this all to a lawyer, and I’ll have a chat with a fellow-professional who’ll tell me there’s no $20,000 for me, but the accusations of copyright infringement and the dead links purporting to be links to infringing content will be removed. It’s always amazing to see how some people, like Inman, know all these dandy tricks for fucking with their adversaries while pasting themselves on the top of a Google search page. I, of course, assume that I am immune to his methods. Why I so assume is the mystery.

June 11, 2012 7:13 p.m.

This is like watching a hurricane blowing in from the coast. FunnyJunk’s management told me the trolling had started, a mass run at the website by hordes of pizza-and-soda-smeared zombies incited into a frenzy of console-humping by Inman’s cartoon of my mom “seducing a Kodiak bear,” the visual motif of the “Bear Love Campaign” that Inman had started to raise $20K in spite donations to the NWF and ACS, because like cancer, nasty lawyers suck, and like bears, that are good, Inman is entitled to eat his enemies for breakfast. I go to the Oatmeal and see the picture of “my mom” — 800 lbs. in a red bikini, making crazy goo goo eyes at a bear that’s probably gonna eat her for breakfast. My mom didn’t have a bikini. She died in her navy blue one-piece swimsuit right before my eyes.

There is a red film spreading over my entire mind. Something has unfortunately totally blown loose in my psyche. I cannot hear my superego wailing like a lost soul left behind by the fast-departing troop train of my id, with my ego in the engineer’s cabin, calling for every bit of steam he can get.

June 11, 2012 11:10 p.m.

Speech emerged from our need to articulate grievances. At some point, yelling and pushing was no longer enough, and smacking on the head with stones just hurt too damn much, and we had to find a way to talk about it. It began with grunts and growls. Or maybe pleas for mercy. Maybe the first time a voice kept a stone from breaking a head, that was speech. Yes, I think that would be.

But I can’t speak a word that will stop anonymous cybervandals from posting phony Amazon reviews panning my book, giving my girls shit on Twitter, trying to take down my websites, sending me hatemail, signing me up for free email offers, ordering me pizza, sending me bags of poop, certificates of jerkdom, and really, the kindest one, a free package of Attends. It’s at times like these that having a deep understanding of the universe and an abiding trust in the universe’s merciful nature comes in really handy.

But eventually, sanctity wears thin and you start to seethe.

June 11, 2012

I look at the Bear Love campaign on Indiegogo.com and it makes me gag. What the fuck ever happened to people that a guy with a website and a sick sense of humor can say “Gimme $20 grand to teach this asshole a lesson,” and they say, “Oh, yeah, we’ll do that, and 10X besides!” There is, of course, something wrong here. People may be that stupid, but the law isn’t. Inman and Indiegogo are breaking the law.

It is getting on towards late afternoon, and my head is pounding. I get in the Prius and start driving West, towards the setting sun. I almost let the car drive itself, just drifting west on Speedway, listening to Frank Black. I keep replaying, “White Noisemaker.”

“I heard a lotta talk
So I’m goin’ to the stereo store,
And get a white noisemaker
Turn it up to 10.
Yakkety-yak is back
Again.”

Gradually, working my way through the post-rush-hour traffic, letting everything in my head subside, the pounding stops. I’m breathing now, watching the reds and oranges and blues of the spreading dusk.

Now I know where I’m going. I’m going to Gates Pass on the other side of Tucson, headed towards Mexico, in the light and radio shadow of Tucson, on the far side of a big, sculpted rock that has a road running down its western slope, steep as a stairway in places. As you wind down the slope, halfway down this big rock, there’s a pullout and trails lead up the rock. It’s a popular place to watch the sunset. Probably a popular place to do drug deals, too. The setup looks perfect, with lots of visibility coming and going, especially to the west. I could imagine one of my old Federal defender clients being popped here. Ah, would that I were still engaged in such unpretentious pursuits as representing real criminals. Instead, I’ve devolved to this level of policing Internet speech of various types. The pure commerciality of it does appeal to me, of course. And actually, visiting prisons, jails, and seeing your clients in green pajamas or orange jumpsuits, with their hands cuffed to their bellies, is a pretty big downer.

I park the Prius and walk up the hill a ways, just to get away from the other people and their voices. It’s gorgeous, and I keep thinking about how as soon as I get back to the office, I’m going to research California law on charitable fundraising. Inman can’t just grab the names of the NWF and the American Cancer Society and start raising money in their name. I’ll call NWF and ACS and find out. I text a couple of notes to my email to remind myself of these ideas, and put them aside for the moment.

I’m here to exert control over this compulsive thinking and rethinking of the situation. I’m leaving behind that useless process of reliving emotions that I’ve already experienced dozens of times. I’m doing something useful. I’m putting myself together from the inside out. I’m not going to use my awareness to listen to words that are intended to anger me. If I’m going to be angry, I’ll be angry for my own reasons. And maybe I’m not going to be angry at all.

In each battle, Clausewitz says, the entire weight of the battle settles on the general. The general’s ability to bear that weight is the difference between victory and a rout. In my own wars, I’m everyone from the pawn to the King, so I always bear the burden of the entire conflict. Some may not see how being engaged in constant warfare could leave you feeling any way but massively insecure, but eventually, if you take to the lifestyle, living in conflict is much more comfortable than constantly eating shit. Shit tastes bad, but once you get used to eating it, everyone will assume you like it, and they’ll just feed you more.

But how do we fight tirelessly? How do we get the energy to declare and fight wars, i.e., to file lawsuits and invest all the scores of hours of difficult brain-work that carrying off litigation requires? How do we deal with the scary work of facing off against intelligent adversaries, being paid nicely, who desire only our legal demise at the earliest possible date? We adopt warrior ethics.

Of course, few people know what ethics are, and they probably think warrior ethics are terribly fierce and semi-barbaric. Not so. Warrior ethics are about preserving the prize while fighting the battle for possession. And the foremost prize, the one you already possess and never want to lose, is basic human decency. That is what I take from the lesson of the enlightenment experience of Morhei Uyeshiba, the founder of Aikido, of whom I’ve been a student for 44 years, since I first saw his face at the age of 13, on the altar of Sensei Takagi’s dojo, two blocks from my house.

Uyeshiba was a very accomplished martial arts master, who transformed the dignified, expansive movements of samurai fencing into a way to dance your adversary to defeat. In Aikido, punches and kicks are thrown, but only to teach students how to defend against them. All Aikido victories are gained by deflecting or evading the attack, leading the adversary along the line of force established by their attack, and either tossing them a safe distance away or sweeping them to the floor, and immobilizing them with a jiu-jitsu-style wrist or elbow lock. Aikido’s been good to me in a couple of motorcycle accidents, when knowing how to fly and land without injury comes in handy. Once your body absorbs the lessons of Aikido, the logic of nonresistance becomes quite compelling.

So I’m thinking about Clausewitz and the weight of the battle falling on me. And I’m thinking about Uyeshiba, and how he got enlightened, not like the Buddha, sitting under a tree, but like a warrior, after a battle in which he most notably didn’t abuse his superior martial arts abilities, and instead, faced the danger of a naked sword without unsheathing his own. As the story goes, Uyeshiba was at his dojo when an angry young man arrived with his sword and challenged him to duel, claiming that Uyeshiba had insulted him in some way. Uyeshiba simply evaded the young man’s attacks until at last, exhausted and unable to continue, he gave up the fight. Uyeshiba walked outside and stood under a fruit tree in bloom. A light descended from heaven suffusing the tree and passing through Uyeshiba’s entire body, filling him with the knowledge that “the Spirit of the Universe is the spirit of love and protection of all beings.”

Uyeshiba walked the walk, so I listen when he talks. Not to strike a blow. Yes, I love the story. But it’s not the way I operate. I’m gonna sue that bastard.

-- The Real Diary of Charles Carreon, by Charles Carreon


Now that he’s accumulated this mass audience, he’s begun to toy with its power. He’s said he wants a seven-figure income; he’s talked about writing comedy or becoming an animator. And his peers are watching with a mixture of interest and fear.

“He’s like Elvis right now, swinging his hips, and we’re all still doing the Buddy Holly thing,” said Nicholas Gurewitch, the cartoonist behind the webcomic The Perry Bible Fellowship. “Not say we’re going to die in a plane crash. We’ll be just fine. Unless Inman takes over the world. Which he could do.”

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:If you chat with Nicholas again tell him I love him and he's always been a huge inspiration to me.


Update: A previous version of this piece linked to a profile that implied Inman was married, had children, and holds certain political beliefs. The profile is a fake. Inman refused to comment for this story, but posted an extended challenge to it on his website.

Jack Stuef is, among other things, a contributor to The Onion and New York Magazine’s The Cut. He tweets here.

Matthew Inman, theoatmeal.com wrote:We'll get to that momentarily.

Dear Jack Stuef:

You point out the comics that pander, but gloss over the ones that don't.

You reveal all these "secrets," which are things I've been publicly saying for years to aspiring writers.

You ignore the fact that 99.9% of the reason I have so many readers is because I MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH.

You question the integrity of my writing, and you do it on BuzzFeed.

Seriously, BUZZFEED.

This is not an honest review of my work, you just cherry-picked the things that fit your "Let's vilify a cartoonist" story.

This is pageview journalism.

This is character assassination.

And this is shit.

I can do it too. Want to watch?

Here you are, Mr. Stuef

Image

You seem like a nice enough dude.

OH WAIT!

Here's a birthday card you made last year for Sarah Palin's mentally disabled son:

Image

I found it on your former employer's website.

In this card, you satirized a birthday poem Palin fans had written for three year old on a social-networking site the night before.

You started with this:

"Oh little boy, what are you dreaming about?"

and then you wrote:

"What's he dreaming about? Nothing. He's retarded."

Nice one, Jack!

Making fun of a toddler with down syndrome!




Is that what this whole "Let's demonize The Oatmeal" thing is all about?

You're bitter because after publishing that birthday card the backlash was so bad you had to leave your job, and now you write for BuzzFeed?

Don't be bitter. If you make a shitty joke, learn from it, keep moving forward, and write better jokes.

Or in your case, maybe just stop being a writer, you bitter, uninspired, bottom-feeding ass.

Hugs and kisses!!

-- The Oatmeal.
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