Since I started to work on my Really Big Jack Thompson story, he has: been denounced by the National Institute on Media and the Family; denounced them back; announced a contest to build a satirical game based on a gamer who goes on a rampage and kills a lot of people; had a couple of developers make the game; reneged on his offer to pay $10,000 to a charity if the game was built, which led the fine fellows at Penny Arcade to respond by writing a $10,000 check to charity to cover Jack's original promise and then sell "I Hate Jack Thompson" t-shirts, which led Jack to send a letter to the Seattle Police Department suggesting the PA guys were harassing him. Most recently, activist gamers responded to Jack's threats against PA by urging the Florida bar to consider this as misconduct.
And I haven't been working on the story that long.
You can pick up the phone and call Jack. His phone number is on his website. Just don't expect much. If you're lucky, you'll get his answering machine. Leave a message, if you like, but unless, I suppose, you are CNN or Fox News, he won't call you back. If you're lucky, Jack will pick up the phone with a gruff, flat, "Hello." You won't get a, "Jack Thompson, Attorney at law. How may I help you and may Sam and Dan Houser burn a million years in hell for bringing Grand Theft Auto into the world." Instead you get a short cautious conversation along the lines of, "Who are you, what do you want?" - the sort of stuff Neo kept asking in the Matrix. If Jack warms up to you, he might even divulge his email address with a plea to "Not share it with anyone," since he's been getting a lot of death threats. If you are not lucky, he'll brush you off as a fanboy looking for a pound of flesh with an, "I'm too busy to talk now." What's frustrating is whether you get happy Jack or mad Jack on the line seems to be a lottery. Every time I tried to arrange an interview with him, it seemed like a different Jack had answered the phone.
Both Jack's seem to agree, however, talking to the gaming press wasn't the best way to advance his cause. Better, I guess, to spend time on television getting the facts wrong (like claiming characters in The Sims come equipped with pubic hair and genitals) and stirring up concern in parents already too busy or lazy to just sit down in front of the PS2 long enough to see what their kids are, in fact, playing.
But what bothers me isn't that Jack gets things wrong in the name of making a point. It's that he seems to get them wrong just enough to make his point. And that's why, even though gamers righteously dismiss Jack as some square who's not hip to what the kids are doing, the rest of the world sees Jack as a guy in a nice suit who just might have a point.
And I wonder if this is actually his technique.
If you want to hurt someone, I mean really hurt them, don't make up outrageous lies. Tell lies that are so close to the truth that they might be true, even if they are completely made up. Tell the world that George Bush has that kid Mikey from the Life commercials tied up in the White House basement and no one can take it seriously. Our president may be many things, but he's not going to get a cameo in Silence of the Lambs III. Tell the world that Bush is in the pocket of the oil industry and it doesn't matter whether it is true or not. It just sounds plausible.