Jack Attack on GamePolitics, Part 4: The Bookstorm

Part 4 of 4

Background: Controversial anti-game attorney Jack Thompson went on the attack against GamePolitics in an interview with the obscure PopZart site during the week of E3. 

In my third year of running GP, I’ve grown accustomed to Thompson’s criticism, but this attack was so remarkably personal in nature that I feel compelled to respond.

You may also want to read part one, The Demonizing, part two, Game Industry Stooge and part three, Raising The Bar. Part four, The Bookstorm, follows.

Picking up where we left off in Part 3, we resume by quoting another of Thompson’s accusations from the PopZart article:

JT: McCauley even went so far as to link his site to my Tyndale House book offering at Amazon.com to assure that it would be “bookstormed.”  The number of obscene postings at my book offering there were so voluminous because of what McCauley did that Amazon had to delete many of them.  McCauley is simply a tool of this industry, then, and its too bad, because the guy has talent and has a sense of what is news.  What he lacks is any sense of fairness when it comes to Jack Thompson.

GP:  This is an absolutely, utterly, false accusation which Thompson has repeated numerous times, including to PopZart. Here’s the truth:

Back in 2005 GP’s only source of revenue was a pittance from Amazon affiliate ads. You know – someone clicks through and buys a book, GP earns a few pennies. Thompson’s book Out of Harm’s Way was to be published in mid-November, 2005. Thinking that it might be a good seller among GP readers, I posted an Amazon ad for it, pre-publication, in early September. For three months that ad ran and Thompson never complained. Why would he? He was getting free advertising.

When the book finally launched in mid-November, people certainly did post nasty things on its Amazon page. I actively discouraged that on GamePolitics and even wrote a charitable commentary on the book at one point, for which Thompson thanked me. All of this from the guy who, in Thompson’s words, “lacks any sense of fairness when it comes to Jack Thompson.”

Timing is crucial to understanding what happened next, and how this outrageous “bookstorming” accusation suddenly materialized. Thompson’s book was published on November 14th, 2005, and the nasty Amazon posts started almost immediately, but the  bizarre “bookstorming” charges against GP didn’t surface until nearly three weeks later, on December 1st. Why?

It’s impossible to know for sure what triggered the sudden turnaround, but Thompson may have become angry with me over two stories – one that I wrote, and one that I didn’t. It’s also possible that he became even more frustrated when I was unable to take his phone calls. 

All I know is that from September 1st until the late afternoon of December 1st, Thompson was fine with his book being advertised on GamePolitics. What caused him to suddenly begin making these outlandish allegations? Here’s the timeline. You decide…

Sept. 1, 2005GamePolitics begins running pre-publication Amazon ad for Thompson’s book

Nov. 15. 2005GamePolitics announces Thompson’s book is now for sale; posts first chapter; negative comments start to appear on Amazon

Nov. 16th, 2005 – I admonish GP readers who are discussing some mischief against Thompson’s book (“I won’t have a book burning advocacy here, no matter whose book it is.”)

Nov. 25th, 2005 – Having now skimmed the book I write my generalized impressions; Thompson posts a thank-you

Nov. 30, 2005 – Book ad has run on GP for 90 days – no complaints from Thompson

Dec. 1st, 6:45 AMGP runs a story about a service promoting Thompson as a radio talk show guest; Within hours Thompson will take exception to this item

Dec. 1st, 2005, 9:59 AM – via e-mail, Thompson offers GamePolitics an op-ed, “Hillary’s Video Game Hoax,” which is his response to GP’s  Nov. 29th coverage of game legislation introduced by Sen. Hillary Clinton

Dec. 1st, 2005, 12:43 PM – Thompson posts response on GP to the radio bookings piece; chides GP for not running Hillary story; vows to quit visiting GP.com

Dec. 1st, 2005, 12:48 PMFirst of six voice mails left this day by Thomspon; chides GP over bookings article and not covering Thompson’s Hillary op-ed

(these voice mail recordings were left on my office phone by Thompson on December 1st, 2005; they were digitized and saved)

Dec. 1st, 2005, 1:28 PM – GP, busy on those oh-so-annoying non-GamePolitics segments of life, posts a brief response to Thompson; but no time to respond to Thompson’s phone calls

Dec. 1st, 2005, 2:15 PMsecond of six voice mails left by Thompson

(in these voice mails Thompson seems to believe he’s talking to an answering machine on which I’m screening calls; he’s actually talking to Verizon’s voice mail service, which I use for my office phone. I can’t hear a word he’s saying until I get around to checking messages)

Dec. 1st, 2005, 2:27 PMthird of six voice mails left by Thompson (as a courtesy to Thompson, we’ve blocked his recitation of his phone number with a tone)

Dec. 1st, 2005, 2:32 PMfourth of six voice mails left by Thompson (ditto, regarding JT’s phone number)

Dec. 1st, 2005, 2:48 PMfifth of six voice mails left by Thompson

Dec. 1st, 2005, 4:24 PMlast of six voice mails left by Thompson (“I’m done with you… you’re a hack…”)

Dec. 1st, 2005, 4:32 PM – Eight minutes after his final, angry voice mail, Thompson’s FIRST EVER attack on the GP Amazon ad materializes via e-mail to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, cc’d to GP: Tortious, Possibly Criminal Activity at Amazon.com…I would ask that you rescind from [GP] the privilege of linking to my book on your site.  The idiot videogamers who visit that site are not buying the book.  They and the owner of the site, Dennis McCauley, are using the link to “bookstorm” and spike the book.  I want it stopped now.

Dec. 1st, 2005, 5:54 PM to 7:19 PM – GP sends several e-mails to Thompson: “I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that you would link my name with anything insidious … I would caution you not to blame your bad [book] reviews on me… I’ve been in and out of meetings all day and I can’t talk to you on the phone…  FYI, as per your request, the ad for your book is gone from my site. To date, five copies were sold through GamePolitics – which probably makes us the world’s leading referral site on your book.”

Dec. 2nd, 2005, 6:07 PM Thompson posts a lengthy tirade, vows never to return to GP (no such luck, unfortunately)… GP responds, admittedly with more heat than is my norm. But then again, I’d just been accused of this “bookstorming.”

Dec. 3rd, 2005: Thompson sends an e-mail to newspapers that carry GP’s column claiming that GP is misrepresenting himself; copies to media outlets; claims that GP is orchestrating bad reviews at Amazon, including the line, “I got McCauley to pull the [book] link this week, because I caught him doing this.”

Dec. 3rd, 2005: The truth being that I took the Amazon ad for his book down as a response to Thompson’s request, I wasn’t about to sit still while he claimed this courtesy as evidence of some wrongdoing on my part. I immediately reposted the book ad and left it up the entire month of December to prove the point. This did not go over well in Miami, to say the least.

The bottom line is simply this: If Jack Thompson makes people angry, that’s not my fault. I can’t control what people think about him or what they post on Amazon.com or anywhere else. I absolutely challenge Thompson to produce any evidence whatsoever that I encouraged an attack on his book. There isn’t any evidence because it never happened. In fact, there’s substantial evidence to the contrary.

Jack’s parting shot at me from the PopZart article:

JT: These blogs like GamePolitics, where Dennis McCauley lets people hide behind anonymity, like big tough guys, casting their stones and then whining when I respond with what I think is the truth, with my name attached, kind of tells anyone who is willing to listen and hear who the mean-spirited anonymous cowards are.

GP: I assume he is referring to reader comments. What am I supposed to do about that? Did GP invent the anonymous Internet? Maybe Jack could take it up with his old law school classmate, Al Gore.

In the end, I must think back to Federal District Court Judge Paul Huck, who, in dismissing a recent case filed by Thompson against the Florida Bar, wrote:

Thompson submits nothing beyond wild accusations of a vast conspiracy against him…

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