This week has seen much attention in the games press focused on the ongoing feud between Jack Thompson, increasingly high-profile antigame activist, and Penny Arcade, the popular game-enthusiast cartoon Web site.
The spat came to a head after Penny Arcade announced its intention to donate $10,000 to an Entertainment Software Association charity in Thompson's name. An incensed Thompson, one of the ESA's most vociferous critics, 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." However, on Thursday morning, the Seattle Police Department told GameSpot that it had not yet received any such complaint from Thompson.
This morning, it appeared that Thompson's tactics had backfired. Many game sites reported that the Miami-based lawyer was now under investigation by the Florida Bar Association (FBA) over his actions in the Penny Arcade dispute. Most of these sites linked back to an article on PC enthusiast site Ars Technica, which said only that "Penny Arcade forum members wrote, edited and sent letters and faxes to the FBA detailing Thompson's activities and urging the review of his license to practice law." The article does not say specifically that an investigation had been launched.
This morning, GameSpot called the Florida Bar Association to see whether any new investigation has been launched against Thompson. Representatives of the FBA's disciplinary division said that despite "many complaints" filed over the past week, no new investigation into Thompson's activities had been launched as of this morning. However, the reps would not rule out the possibility of any future action being taken.
The FBA did say there are two investigations into Thompson currently ongoing--one filed in March 2005 and the other in September 2004. While the disciplinary board would not say what the subject of the investigations were, Thompson was more than happy to tell GameSpot about both suits' origin.
"They're brought by the lawyers who represented Howard Stern's station, because I got him off the air down here," he said, referring to his wider campaign against profanity in the media. "This is a very old strategy that I'm used to. Penny Arcade needs to be very careful, because I've been down this road, and they have not. They've now put themselves even more in harm's way."
Besides his comments to GameSpot, Thompson also sent out an e-mail statement to numerous media outlets "Targeting of Jack Thompson for Criminal Harassment by 'Gamers.'" His statement, which is also addressed to the Florida Bar's Board of Governors and its president, Alan B. Bookman, reads as follows:
Dear Mr. Bookman and All Governors of The Florida Bar:
As you know, eighteen years ago I commenced efforts against the entertainment industry's illegal distribution of adult entertainment to minors. That fledgling effort resulted in the first decency fines ever levied by the FCC.
The broadcasters struck back with Bar complaints. One happy result of that is that The Bar's insurance carrier had to pay me money damages for The Bar's having taken the bait offered by the SLAPP bar complainants. SLAPP is the acronym for 'strategic litigation against public participation.' Filing such a complaint violates certain federal civil rights statutes and state laws as well.
As you also know, the Philadelphia law firm of Blank Rome, which is lead lawyer and chief lobbyist registered in the US House of Representatives and in the US Senate for Take-Two Interactive, has chosen to use the SLAPP approach in our wrongful death case in Alabama by asking the Alabama state judge to kick me off that case because 1) I have been so effective in telling the American people about the reckless activity of their clients, Take-Two and Sony, through 60 Minutes and Reader's Digest that they can't now get a 'fair trial,' and 2) I have a 'colorful history' of pornographers filing SLAPP bar complaints against me, which indicates I am unfit to practice law.
Interesting logic, but remember: this is Blank Rome talking. Blank Rome has a very long history of 'opposition research' through partners such as 'Barbara Comstock,' who was called by the Washington Post a 'one-woman wrecking crew' for her brilliance in character assassination on behalf of her clients.
Blank Rome's Comstock is the US Congressman Dan Burton staffer who was doing his 'work' for him when he was clandestinely keeping a mistress on his federal payroll staff in violation of federal law.
Blank Rome also has been recently caught up in the scandal of securing Department of Homeland Security contracts for its clients allegedly because of its massive campaign contributions to former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, Bush-Cheney, and the RNC. This has been covered in the mainstream media. Blank Rome is clearly the most powerful law firm, right now, in America, because of its tight personal and financial relationships with Jeb and George Bush. Blank Rome likes to make stuff up to run over people who are in the way of their clients. Pretty standard stuff, really. But don't you love the fact that a bunch of 'family values' Republican loyalists to George Bush are representing Take-Two/Rockstar and fraudulently smearing a conservative Christian Republican who has got Rockstar on the run? But this is what the GOP has become: the lap dog for corporate America, the parents who provide the party's base be damned.
"I hear today, then, from the Internet-based 'enthusiast video game press' that 'gamers' are going to file or have filed new SLAPP Bar complaints against me. Here's why:
An outfit in Seattle called 'Think Geek' is marketing a t-shirt emblazoned across the front of which are the words 'I Hate Jack Thompson.' That kind of tells us where they are on the subject of me.
The parent company is an outfit called Penny Arcade. In the last several days, the folks at Think Geek provided, improperly, Penny Arcade with my email address, which had not been widely circulated (I had to get rid of the last one because of death threats and the like). Some idiot at Penny Arcade foolishly emailed me and told me, in effect, of the amusement that comes from going after me, and then he foolishly explained on the Penny Arcade site how they were going to do it.
Penny Arcade put out a 'news story' that was wholly false, and the purpose of it, of course, was to generate the sort of Internet-based gamers harassment of me that has caused me to coin the useful phrase 'pixelante.' Blank Rome is just a highly-paid pixelante. I was not getting this harassment at my new e-mail address until Penny Arcade did this.
The result of Penny Arcade's intentional targeting of me is that I almost immediately started receiving emailed and phoned death threats, many of them referencing Penny Arcade. Penny Arcade has every right to express their warped bizarre opinions, but they don't have the right to use the Internet to orchestrate criminal harassment of me, which is precisely what they did.
I asked to speak with their attorney, which I did yesterday, and this guy is a perfect fit with Penny Arcade, because his position is that this is all my fault.
"I have written the Police Chief in Seattle and asked that their department investigate this matter, as I believe this constitutes a criminal act by Penny Arcade. Penny Arcade has thus ramped up the harassment, and now there is a campaign among gamers to go to The Florida Bar to 'discipline' me for trying to protect myself and my family, as well as my right, under the First Amendment to try to get the video game industry to start acting like something other than a bunch of sociopaths.
I was on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 two nights ago because there is now a new game out in which pro footballers send prostitutes to the other team's players' hotel rooms. Quaint stuff. I think I have a right to complain about that, which CNN wanted me to do when they contacted me. Anderson Cooper was more negative about it than I was. I am making progress.
"But I especially appreciated the computer-generated call last night that said 'We are coming to get you, Mr. Thompson.' This is from the Penny Arcade faithful. That is precisely what Penny Arcade wanted, and I have received similar computer-generated calls threatening me.
I am quite certain that lawyer Daniel Horowitz would advise me to take such threats seriously, aren't you?
Several weeks ago some gamer idiot (sorry to be redundant) managed to email me thousands of death threats from a blast email service based in Ireland using the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Secret Service shut that pixelante right down. It's probably too much to expect the Secret Service to shut Blank Rome down. That's a joke, by the way.
Now, let me be clear. Any Bar complaint coming from these morons arising out of the above incident is baseless and itself constitutes a violation of a specific federal civil rights statute.
If The Bar proceeds with any of these, it does so at its own peril. The Bar paid me once. I am certainly willing for it to pay me again, along with others.
Regards, Jack Thompson
After receiving this e-mail, GameSpot called the FBA again to see if they had received it as well. A less forthcoming spokesperson said that the Board of Governors was at an annual meeting until Saturday, and the only person that could address any current investigations was not currently available. A third call was transferred to several reps before ending in a voicemail dead end. Messages left had not been returned as of press time.
However, to drive his message home, Thompson sent out a second e-mail to GameSpot exclusively, which repeated many of his previous points, warning that "The orchestration of these [SLAPP] complaints also happens to violate certain federal civil rights laws. The Florida Bar processes them at risk to itself." Thompson concluded his e-mail with the following paragraphs:
I'm not putting up with this crap. You, who actually have jobs and are normal human beings, are notified however, that I am a moving target, and this email address will not work in an hour or so. I had to change my last email address. Such is the price of pixelantism.
Call me at the below number if you want or need my new email address or need to communicate something other than a death threat to me. [Note: Thompson asked GameSpot not to publish his phone number.]
"As these scum wish me their worst, I will continue to try to do my utmost for His highest."