I realize I'm a bit late to the dance on this one, so bear with me. But this has been a situation I've been watching for some weeks now, with great concern. Specifically because it ties into something I ranted at length about some time ago--namely, bloggers getting pushed around by those who can't handle a bad review.
By now, most of you know the story. I first was made aware of it by the blogger Cyberschizoid. Write-ups on the matter followed at Chuck Norris Ate My Baby and Zombos' Closet of Horror. It seems that one Dangerous Jamie of the blog Let's Get Dangerous posted an open letter to Britain's GoreZone magazine in January, detailing his various problems with the current state of the publication, and how it might improve.
The letter seemed innocuous enough. It was carefully worded, constructive and rational in its criticism. It was by no means what anyone would call an unfair attack. Yet, it wasn't long before Jamie's blog was being inundated by troll commenters leaving hateful, obscene and vicious remarks. One of them even claimed to be Bryn Hammond, Editor-in-Chief of GoreZone. However, this was proven to be false--as were the identities of some 14 other commenters. The kicker is that all these comments were coming from the same IP address, which allegedly was located within GoreZone magazine itself.
From there, legal action was taken against Jamie for the post in question. I'm no expert on freedom of the press in the UK, or UK laws regarding libel, defamation and such, but there's no way that a magazine can sue a critic for writing a negative review of said magazine. If so, what kind of insane door would that open? As has been pointed out, GoreZone itself reviews movies and other things--could they conceivably be sued for writing a bad review?
Jamie (pictured, left) was accused of libeling GoreZone with his open letter, of attempting to harm the magazine's sales. This, when Jamie himself was libeled outright by some of the most heinous comments I've ever seen on any blog, all the while remaining civil in all his responses. It's also interesting that one of Jamie's main points in his post was that GoreZone is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors--and then, you guessed it, almost every comment bashing Jamie and supporting GZ was also riddled with the same.
He was forced to remove a GoreZone cover image from the post, when, to my knowledge, using an image like that for review purposes is completely kosher. Thankfully, this seems to have been all they've been able to coerce him to do. Ever since the IP address controversy, the GoreZone folks seem to have mysteriously backed off, and Jamie himself has not heard a word from the lawyers or anyone else in weeks.
Thankfully, lots of readers and bloggers have shown Jamie support in this unfortunate situation, including the aforementioned, as well as Robert Ring of The Sci-Fi Block, who helped get the story covered on Techdirt, a website which covers technology-based legal issues. The situation even caught the attention of Roger Ebert, who mentioned it on Twitter.
And speaking of Ebert, the legendary film critic was lambasted, along with Jamie, in an interview given by the real Bryn Hammond with the website Screen Jabber. Hammond denied the claim that the phony negative comments were coming from within GoreZone itself. But in defending himself, he really did himself no favors, describing Jamie's responses to him as "naively spouting off about freedom of speech and all that bullshit." Hammond also warns both Jamie and Ebert (who never came down on either side of the issue, by the way), to "really watch that kind of bullshit they're writing and talking about."
It's very unfortunate that a blogger could be so thoroughly bullied by a corporate entity, but sadly, it doesn't surprise me. As was stated in the CNAMB write-up, this would definitely not be happening if it had been a major website or other entity that published the critique. But because it's someone they consider unimportant and defenseless, they try to pressure him into retracting his criticism. Thankfully, the situation seems to have calmed down a bit, as someone must've informed GoreZone that they don't have a legal leg to stand on.
I had not been all that familiar with GoreZone before this debacle (I do remember a Fangoria satellite mag with the same name in the '90s, but I don't think they're related), but the whole thing has pretty much ensured I will not be picking up my first issue anytime soon. If this is the way they operate, I want nothing to do with them. In fact, I won't even entertain the notion of buying an issue until Jamie gets an apology, and I encourage anyone disturbed by the matter to do the same. I doubt that apology will ever come about, but so be it. Judging by what's been spewed onto Jamie's blog and elsewhere, I don't think I'm missing much.
It's very important that companies like GoreZone not be simply permitted to get away with bullying small, independent bloggers and other journalists. If we allow it to happen once, it's just going to keep happening, and getting worse every time. Folks like that shouldn't be emboldened--it should be made clear to them that such behavior cannot be tolerated in a free society.
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