The former editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Heckler, Jack Stuef (COL ’10), has quite a history of offending people. His time as the editor of the satirical magazine was marked by controversy over a piece that mocked The Hoya for its own controversial April Fool’s Day 2009 issue. Now, Stuef drew the ire of Matthew Inman, the creator and author of The Oatmeal.
In case you’ve never been on the Internet before, The Oatmeal is a fabulously successful webcomic. In a recent article contributed to BuzzFeed, Stuef picked apart The Oatmeal’s success after a panel in an Oatmeal comic featured a rape joke. Although the online community usually worships Inman and his work, this joke was seen as going too far. After a barrage of criticism from Reddit and Facebook, Inman initially removed the offending panel but with the scornful line, “To all those who complained: thank you for censoring me,” he wrote. “It worked.” This, too, was removed and he later apologized.
Aside from bringing attention to the rape joke, Stuef’s article dug up some dirt on Inman’s career. “Unlike most cartoonists, online and off, Inman, 30, came to the profession by way of one of the Internet’s most-hated practices: Search engine optimization tricks. Inman […] was an online marketer who made his name devising quizzes and cartoons aimed at going viral on the web,” Stuef wrote. “But the real purpose of this linkbait was what was hidden inside: search-engine keywords and links to his clients’ websites, an underhanded tactic meant to shoot them to the top of Google.”
Stuef also attempted to show the extent to which Inman’s seemingly small-scale website has expanded into a six-figure business.
“Inman plays into this myth of the solitary, struggling webcomic artist, calling The Oatmeal a ‘one man operation,’ though he employs family members to run his sprawling retail business. When Inman declined to be interviewed for this story, the word did not come from Inman himself, but from his publicist.”
Unfortunately for Stuef, Inman has a knack at deconstructing arguments against him. When Forbes criticized The Oatmeal for a comic extolling Nikola Tesla, Inman tore them up for it. He did the same thing after being sued by FunnyJunk.
Well, now Inman has targeted Stuef in turn. On The Oatmeal’s blog, Inman wrote a response to Stuef’s original article.
In Stuef’s original article, he reported that Inman had a wife and children and strong Republican views. According to Inman, the online profile where Stuef found all of that information was fake, and never had anything to do with him. These factual errors have since been edited out of Stuef’s article.
Inman also claimed that his work with The Oatmeal really is a small-scale operation. He listed the 5 family members and close friends who help him, and then wrote, “I don’t have a publicist. I just wrote that on the website as a fancy title for someone who helps filter out incoming emails. When I *declined* an interview, what actually happened was you [Stuef] emailed my MOTHER and she had no idea what Buzzfeed was, so she said no.”
But Stuef still stands by his claims against The Oatmeal and its business practices. Stuef directed Vox to a statement he made to the Columbia Journalism Review in which Stuef said that his request for an interview was declined by Amanda DiMarco, who is listed on LinkedIn as “PR and Business Development” for The Oatmeal, despite Inman’s claims not to have a publicist.
The majority of readers will see only Inman’s side of the story, however. Inman even facetiously did a little character assassination of his own; he ended his “letter” to Stuef by digging up an old Blingee (now removed) Stuef made of Sarah Palin’s mentally disabled son.
“Don’t be bitter. If you make a shitty joke, learn from it, keep moving forward, and write better jokes. Or in your case, maybe just stop being a writer, you bitter, uninspired, bottom-feeding ass.” Ouch.
Illustration: Matthew Inman / The Oatmeal