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You don’t step on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. And you don’t mess around with Matthew Inman, creator of the wildly popular webcomic The Oatmeal. Charles Carreon learned that earlier this year, when he sued Inman over allegedly defamatory comments and was made an Internet laughingstock.
Now Inman has taken aim at Jack Steuf, who last week wrote an unflattering profile of the cartoonist at BuzzFeed. (True confession time: I linked to the article in Comics A.M., although by the time I read it, the most egregious error had already been removed.) Inman posted the BuzzFeed article in its entirety and added his own annotations, taking issue with almost every point and ending with the allegation that Steuf had to leave his last job after a fake birthday card that mocked a poem written for Sarah Palin’s son, who has Downs Syndrome.
The most serious error in the BuzzFeed article is that Steuf relied in part on what turned out to be a fake profile of Inman on a website called SodaHead. The profile portrayed Inman as married, with children, and a staunch Republican, none of which is true. In fact, Inman is not married, has no children, and voted for Barack Obama both times. BuzzFeed removed the inaccurate information and added a terse note at the end of the article:
Update: A previous version of this piece linked to a profile that implied Inman was married, had children, and holds certain political beliefs. The profile is a fake. Inman refused to comment for this story, but posted an extended challenge to it on his website.
As mea culpas go, that’s pretty thin gruel. This is bad stuff. It’s poor journalistic practice to trust anything online, and the fault lies not just with the reporter who did it but also with the editor who let it get by. As Slade Sohmer points out in a nice analysis of the situation at HyperVocal, BuzzFeed’s nonchalant response erodes the website’s credibility and, by association, online media in general.