Sean Parker brims thoughts and emotions, all of which he poured into an 9,000+ word article published today on TechCrunch. The article, "Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Online Journalism", is an interesting read: in it Parker gives a detailed explanation of his recent Big Sur wedding that incurred an online backlash, discusses the tawdry state of online journalism, and throws in some Tolkeinesque references, ecology lessons and a final, self-aware indictment of the very Internet culture he helped build. "Be careful what you wish for," he concludes, rather spookily, "you just might get it."
Parker's article comes nearly a month after his June 1 wedding, which took place at a Big Sur campground and had a "high fantasy" theme (Parker's words). An article by Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic raised questions about the wedding's impact on the site and revealed the fact that Parker paid $1 million in fines to the California Coastal Commission. A variety of online publications picked up the story (including this one), and an Internet backlash was born.
Parker's self-defense details everything from he and his wife's nerdy wedding fantasies to the dereliction of the campground's owners to the sorry state of journalism today. A brief summary, in quotes:
Before the fall:
We lay on the flower-strewn pathway, looking up at the redwood canopy above. The fog rolling in from the ocean enveloped us, imbuing the moment with a feeling of supernatural bliss.
Enter the douche canoe:
Our marriage announcement and wedding photo on Facebook elicited hundreds of these messages from angry bystanders telling us to “fuck off,” and calling us “selfish,” “contemptible,” “disgusting,” and “hypocrites.” Descriptions of me included the words “douchebag” and “prick,” of my wife, the words “gold-digger” and “whore.” Luckily amongst the rabble were some unusually creative hate-mongers who managed to keep our attention by dispensing inventive insults like “douchemonster,” “jackassery,” “jackwagon” and, my personal favorite, “douche canoe.” (I have no idea what a “douche canoe” or a “jackwagon” is, but I’m assuming they are neither forms of transportation nor compliments.)
Many press reports have focused on the notion that we had somehow harmed the environment. This is simply not true. No redwood trees were harmed in any way. No endangered species were harmed, and, in fact, none were resident on the property. Fabric liners were used to protect the ground from our landscaping work. We were careful not to plant directly in the ground - we brought in potted plants instead.
While not every publication operates this way ... the fact that so many did engage in the misinformed attacks, even credible outlets like The Atlantic, stands as a stunning testament to the state of online journalism. How could nearly every single reporter have failed to conduct any interviews with anyone at all, let alone ask the very subject of their stories for comment? We would have gladly responded and perhaps much of this anguish could have been avoided.
Isn't it ironic?
Economically speaking, I profited handsomely from the destruction of the media as we knew it. The rest of the world did not make out so well, and society certainly got the worse end of the bargain.
I can’t escape the feeling that there is a kind of cosmic irony at work here ... as if by some process of karmic retribution, the mediums I dedicated my life to building have all too often become the very weapon by which my own character and reputation has been mercilessly attacked in public.