I’m reasonably sure this won’t be a regular feature, but this past week has been wild and we need a place to put all these stories so we can gawk in fascination and horror at how the rich and privileged fail up. Make 2019 the year you take no sh*t from scammers.
We begin with The New Yorker and their recent eye-opening profile into the author Dan Mallory. You may know him better as A.J. Finn, the writer of one of last year’s biggest selling titles, The Woman in the Window, soon to be a film starring Amy Adams.
Ian Parker’s delectable exposé of thriller writer Dan Mallory is just paragraph after paragraph of yikes. https://t.co/mK5GA6nPZG— Emily Nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) February 4, 2019
Journalist Ian Parker reports in excruciating detail how Mallory, someone with one of the worst reputations in the tight-knit world of publishing, spent many years lying about his credentials, his family’s health, his own medical history, and his own damn accent. Mallory, according to the piece, claimed his mother was sick, dying, or dead on more than one occasion, dating back to his college application essays. She’s still alive and so is his father and brother, who he also claimed had died. Mallory also repeatedly claimed to have a doctorate from Oxford University and a second doctorate in psychology with a focus on Munchausen syndrome (ha). There’s no evidence of either, and he never finished his studies at Oxford because he claimed he had developed brain cancer and had to drop out. Mallory now admits he never had a brain tumour, even though his ‘brother’ sent multiple emails out to friends and colleagues detailing his treatment and receiving gifts for his time in the hospital.
Mallory worked as an agent and editor at William Morrow, who purchased the rights to his first book, and one of the authors he represents was so put off by his endless lies that she hired a detective to look into his past then seemingly inserted Mallory into one of her books as a villain!
Publishing is a super insular world and one that is steeped in elitism and privilege. It’s mostly white, heavily male (despite women being more avid readers), and an environment that fosters endless aggressions against marginalized individuals working within it. Mallory not only managed to get a massive book deal despite being infamous in his own field but he got a job as an executive editor at William Morrow, earning about $200,000 a year. As noted by Constance Grady in Vox, entry-level publishing salaries start at around $27,000, so Mallory essentially conned his way into a position with almost 10 times that pay through lying about everything, from his education to the authors he discovered. William Morrow don’t seem especially interested in dealing with this scammer and bully because his book is selling well and the film is oncoming. The failing upward continues.
And also he allegedly left cups of pee around a woman’s office.
So, you heard the one about FuckJerry?
Elliot Tebele, also known as FuckJerry, is an Instagram celebrity who became best known for the aforementioned account that stole other people’s memes and posted them without attribution. This was not an isolated incident, obvious — hi there, Fat Jew — but FuckJerry was the account that managed to turn such theft into a multi-million dollar corporate behemoth. The business was celebrated in publications like Inc., which Tebele described himself as a ‘hustler’. They are one of many places that referred to his theft as ‘curation’. Tebele also claimed that if anyone who had had their work ‘curated’ by him was unhappy, he would take said content down but ‘he insists that hasn’t happened in the history of the company.’ Well, we know that’s a lie.
FuckJerry and similar accounts have come under fire before for joke theft, but last week seemed to be a tipping point. Megh Wright, a writer for Vulture, pushed back against the normalizing of online theft and the real damage FuckJerry caused when it was revealed that Comedy Central were doing paid advertisements with the account. As they had done so for years, the account stole other people’s memes without attribution or compensation, then charged tens of thousands of dollars to turn it into ads for Broad City. Wright started the #FuckFuckJerry protest and soon the biggest comedians in the business were joining the crusade, from Patton Oswalt to John Mulaney to Paul F. Tompkins.
I’ve blocked ‘em all. Won’t you block them as well? https://t.co/ZYScGd4Xb0— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) February 1, 2019
The movement managed to knock a solid couple hundred thousand followers off their numbers, which is impressive given how the account has been steadily growing without stopping for many years. Tabale, in an obvious panic, issued perhaps the most obtuse apology I’ve read all week. It’s been a weird year already, you guys.
In it, Tebele claimed that ‘in the early days of FuckJerry, there were not well-established norms for reposting and crediting other users’ content, especially in meme culture’, which suggests to me that he’s never taken a college class where the basics of plagiarism have been explained to him. He also said he was making an effort to properly credit creators and ‘updated our policies to make sure we are responsive to creators whenever they have reached out to us about posts.’ Okay, good, so you won’t be stealing other people’s content? At least for a while until you think the spotlight is off you.
But here’s the thing: Not once in this ‘apology’ does he mention compensation. This was never just about the theft or lack of attribution: It was about profiting from other people’s work and normalizing this endless system of theft and devaluing of labour, however miniscule it may seem. As someone who can honestly say they wouldn’t be working in this field if it wasn’t for being spotted on social media, I know the value my work has, even in 140/280 characters. If someone stole all my tweets then got big job opportunities or 5 figure sponsorship deals from that, I would hope people would be angry about that. Tebele doesn’t care about that because he thinks there’s no value in other people’s work unless he ‘curates it’.
And also he was one of the key promoters of Fyre Fest, so f*ck him.
Let’s end thing on a high/low. Remember Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of blood testing start-up Theranos which was revealed to be a ceaseless scam of lies, ineptitude and intimidation? The same Holmes who was charged with ‘massive fraud’ by the SEC? Yeah, she’s looking for investors for her new start-up.
You have absolutely got to be kidding me:https://t.co/T77lrJC7kV— Derek Lowe (@Dereklowe) January 30, 2019
No word on what her big business plan is now. Following her multi-billion dollar scam around blood testing equipment that didn’t work and potentially put thousands of people’s lives at risk, perhaps she’s going for something a little more low-key. Like DIY laser eye surgery. At least this gives Jennifer Lawrence more material for that movie of Holmes we’re getting in the near future.
Have you read John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood? You should read John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood.
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