Last week former Gawker writer Adam Weinstein started getting some emails from America’s least capable journalist, Chuck C. Johnson.
Last year, Gawker had written about persistent rumors surrounding Johnson’s time at the Claremont Colleges - most notably that he had taken a dump on the floor. At the time, Johnson threatened to sue the company and Weinstein (a frequent threat levied at his many enemies).
Johnson actually filed a defamation suit against Gawker earlier this year for $66 million, but in a bizarre legal move he filed the case in Missouri, against a New York company, with a plaintiff in California. Gawker’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss on anti-SLAPP grounds (basically saying that the lawsuit was intended to intimidate the press), and most commentators agree that’s the most likely outcome. Chuck’s deadline to respond to this motion was last Friday, October 9th, so frantically trying to get inside information about the company two days before that is... curious.
Let’s talk about me for a second. Over the summer, I had some free time in New York City. Coincidentally, Gawker Media was having some troubles in the aftermath of publishing a particularly odious story outing a non-notable, non-public person for hiring a gay escort. Two of the company’s top editorial staffers resigned in the wake of it, and I saw my moment.
Obviously I did not become the Editor in Chief of Gawker, but I spent the next few days pretending I had:
The best thing about this was that people actually believed it. And not just credulous Gamergate buffoons (although there were plenty of them as well), but actual media types.
I kept “posting stories” for a few days
All good things must come to an end, and eventually I shuttered the ruse.
Fast forward to last week. I saw Adam Weinstein’s tweets and one of those cartoon lightbulbs popped up over my head.
Six minutes later:
“Oh my God he wrote back. Gotta come up with a response. Gotta...”
(literally 10 minutes after the last email) THIS DUDE IS THIRSTY. I really didn’t want to talk to him on the phone though.
This was true. I mean, the Tae Kwon Do part.
Hoooooly shit. At this point I knew I was dealing with a true madman. As anybody who has ever worked for any kind of reputable media organization or third-tier Internet gossip blog knows, the idea that memos of this type would exist is absolutely ludicrous. But let’s roll with it, shall we?
Also having him give me money for fake memos would be fraud, an actual crime I am uninterested in committing.
Meanwhile, on Adam Weinstein’s Twitter...
I slept on it and sent him this in the morning.
I also shared the events so far with some friends on Twitter by DM
Oh my God.
So at this point I wanted to keep giving him stuff but I didn’t want to have any of it be something that he would file in Federal court, and it was plainly obvious that Johnson was gullible enough to fall for anything that painted Gawker Media as a cartoon terrorist organization. Then, strangely, Chuck changed tacks a little bit.
A note: I live three time zones away from the Gawker Media offices. Was Chuck C. Johnson trying to get me to go pump employees for information? Would I have to wear a wire, like on the classic HBO TV show Def Comedy Jam? I needed to know more.
Sadly, I would never get closure on this question, as on October 9th Chuck C. Johnson stopped talking to me. It also doesn’t seem like he filed his response to Gawker’s motion to dismiss, but he claims he did so we’ll have to wait and see on this one.