Grab Thine Pitchforks!

By Jonathan Barnes, 4 years ago
By now, I’m sure 99.9% of gamers have had time to read, rage, read again, and rage again over the fiasco that was Ocean Marketing. If you’re not familiar, feel free to check out the full story on Penny Arcade. If you’re more of a “Cliff’s Notes” type of person, here’s the breakdown:

Back in December, gamer “Dave” contacted Ocean Marketing to inquire about his order of two Avenger PlayStation 3 controllers, made by N-Control. He ended up receiving possibly the worst customer service in the history of the internet; “service” that included name-calling, threats, and worse. Eventually, “Dave” sent an e-mail to Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade, copying him in on the horrible treatment by Ocean Marketing/N-Control and their representative Paul Christoforo. Krahulik posted the entire e-mail string on Penny Arcade and even inserted himself into the “conversation”, revoking PAX access to Christoforo and his company. The whole exchange quickly spun out of control and the flames reached epic height.

As you can imagine, the internet kind of exploded, and rightfully so. The blowback on Ocean Marketing and N-Control, but mostly Christoforo, was straight out of Pulp Fiction. Everything short of fire and sulfur rained down upon him with great vengeance and furious anger. Threats from the internet mob flew onto his Twitter, his Facebook, and his e-mail.

Let me be amongst the millions who have said that Paul Christoforo is a grade-A, A-hole. He’s ignorant, mean, stupid, ill-written, ill-spoken, duplicitous, potentially larcenous, and possibly one of the worst people I’ve ever encountered in my time writing about video games. He absolutely deserved to be fired from his job and black-listed from his profession for what he did.

That being said… he doesn’t deserve this level of hate.

According to Christoforo (against my better judgment, I’m going to take him at his word here), his wife and young son were also threatened. If this is true, it’s inexcusable.

The internet has done a lot of amazing things for civilization: information is at our beck and call, shopping can be done in our PJs, and communication happens at the speed of light. On the flip side, it has also inadvertently worked to destroy civility. While Christoforo might be the most recent victim, how many times have you seen comments/tweets/messages on forums that are blatantly and maliciously racist, sexist, threatening, anti-Semitic, or worse? The internet creates a wonderful sense of anonymity that allows people to hide behind screen names, handles, gamertags, and e-mail addresses, and gives the person behind the pseudonym the liberty to unleash their profane rantings onto the world without fear of retribution or consequence.

The irony here is that the perceived anonymity that Christoforo thought he could hide behind is now coming back on him. His cyber-bullying has created an internet lynch mob that has no limits, no morals, no restraint, and, in the end, has become just as bad (or worse) as he was/is.

Think about it like this: We all know Batman’s origin story. His parents were brutally murdered in front of him as a child and he begins a lifelong quest to vanquish crime as the Dark Knight. In comics like Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a therapist postulates that, while doing his part to stop crime, Batman has inadvertently created supervillains. Even Alfred postulates this in Christopher Nolan’s epic film The Dark Knight.

Let me be clear: in no way am I saying that Christoforo or the representative mob that has gone after him is Batman, but I think the comparison is apt. The internet saw something bad, a minor grievance in the grand scheme of things, and decided to threaten a man’s life, wife, and child. This is tantamount to a nuclear response because of a harassment charge.

The point I’m trying to make is a simple call for civility. Jackwads like Paul Christoforo are everywhere in life. You probably even know a few people like him yourself, or at the very least have seen jerks and trolls posting in forums. While there is an incredible sense of schadenfreude in seeing people like Christoforo get their comeuppance, lines must be drawn or we make ourselves no better than he is.

To call back to Batman, everyone knows his one rule and every villain tries his hardest to get him to break it. They push and push and push to get him to cross the line, to become what he has fought to abolish. The great thing about Batman is that he doesn’t cross that line, he knows where to stop. I think that’s a lesson the internet could really take to heart.
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.