Web comic Penny Arcade is well known for its loyal and passionate fan base. A simple link to an outside Web site in a PA news post has commonly resulted in the linked site being shut down by the resulting flood of visitors, or "wanged," according to the comic's vernacular. Depending on the context of the link, the site on the other end of a link may receive an avalanche of laudatory e-mails, a spike in business, or a rush of furious hate mail.
Now Florida attorney Jack Thompson is pointing to the comic's loyal fan base as having been used as a tool of harassment.
In a letter addressed to John McKay, US Attorney for the Western District of Washington, and sent to media outlets, Thompson this morning said the site was using a variety of means "to encourage and solicit criminal harassment" of him.
Thomspon wrote to McKay, "Please help me if you can," but did not include specific actions he wished to have taken against the site. McKay's office prosecutes cases investigated by several law enforcement agencies in Western Washington, including the FBI.
In today's news post, Penny Arcade artist Mike Krahulik addressed the situation for the comic's fan base. "Apparently many of you took it upon yourselves to send some extremely well thought out complaints to the Florida Bar," he wrote. "I have a feeling that might explain Jack's most recent attack on us. I want to stress that I don't think anymore mails need to be sent to the FBA. I feel like by now they understand what the situation is.
"He can send these silly letters from hell to breakfast but all they amount to his [sic] a bunch of legal dry humping. He's not actually going to accomplish anything with these faxes and they really don't have the intended effect on us. That is to say we are not scared."
Within that text, Krahulik linked to the front page of the Florida Bar's Web site, which spurred Thompson to compose a follow-up e-mail to McKay saying that the site did this "in order to solicit and encourage Bar complaints" against him.
"This is simply illustrative of what has been going on by this outfit for quite sometime," Thompson said. "The principals at Penny Arcade, like many others in the video game world, want those of us who know and can prove the dangers of the game industry driven by extortion, and other means, from the public square."
The charge of extortion is one Thompson has brought up several times in e-mails regarding Penny Arcade (along with harassment), though the specifics of the accused extorting are unclear. When asked for clarification, Thompson responded to GameSpot's request with the following:
"Penny Arcade, by means I choose not to specify because that would be really dumb to do right now, given what will be distribution of this information, have intentionally orchestrated death threats and other harassment toward me. I'll provide the proof, some of which these folks don't know I have, to the charging authorities. That's as specific as I want to be given to whom I am ulimately [sic] speaking. I'm not as dumb as I look."
Thompson also sent along a copy of an e-mail he'd received from an assistant to Washington State Legislature Representative Mary Lou Dickerson. The e-mail said Dickerson's office had contacted McKay's office and encouraged him to look into the issue with Penny Arcade.
The spat first picked up steam after Penny Arcade announced its intention to donate $10,000 to an Entertainment Software Association charity in Thompson's name. Thompson then accused Penny Arcade of harassing him by selling "I Hate Jack Thompson" T-shirts via ThinkGeek.com and threatened the site with legal action. He then issued a press release saying he had faxed the Seattle police asking them to take action against Penny Arcade, which he accused of being a "little extortion factory." Days later, the Seattle Police Department had no record of such a fax, but earlier today a representative of the Seattle chief of police confirmed for GameSpot that Thompson had contacted the department and that his complaint had been forwarded to the appropriate party.
As of press time, McKay's office had not been able to confirm or deny acceptance of Thompson's messages.