If you’ve been following the whole Sam Sethi/TechCrunch lawsuit debacle (see here and here and here), you’ll want to read this post by Paul Carr as well, where he prints emails from Sethi sent on record.
I’m also reprinting below, these things have a tendency to disappear when lawsuits strike:
An open letter to Sam Sethi, on the occasion of him completely losing his mind
August 5th, 2009
Note: this post was originally written for – and subsequently spiked by – the Telegraph. This followed attempts by Sam Sethi to harass my editor both by email and phone.
For the past few weeks, you have been embroiled in a one-sided libel suit against Michael Arrington, the Silicon Valley-based editor of TechCrunch – a publication for which, in the interests of disclosure, I recently began writing a weekly column.
In the suit, you claim that Arrington libelled you by publishing claims about your personal and professional behaviour during the time you were founding Blognation, your now defunct technology blog network.
The facts of the case have already been pretty well documented across the Internet (not least by me), so I won’t rehash them here, save to say that Arrington and TechCrunch refused to recognise the jurisdiction of the UK courts in the case. And that in the absence of any representation from the defendant, on 30th July (last Thursday) the court entered a default judgement in your favour, with damages and costs to be awarded later.
More than a month ago, while I was still happily writing for the Guardian and had no inkling that I’d end up moving to TechCrunch, you and I spoke at length about the case. Based on those conversations, I wrote a column arguing that you weren’t a malicious person but were simply a damaged man who had run out of other options for restoring his tattered reputation. I quoted you admitting that you had lied to your staff about Blognation’s financial situation and also admitting that TechCrunch’s publication of leaked documents had not in fact ’scuppered’ (your word) the company’s chances of securing investment, despite your previous claims to the contrary. And yet I tried to present both sides in a fair light, given how polarising the fight had become.
What I haven’t revealed publicly until now is that shortly after the column was published, you sent me an email, titled ‘Olive Branch strategy – help/advise [sic] gratefully accepted’. In it you said that you wanted nothing more than to avoid legal action, and asked for my advice on how to do that. I’m not going to quote from the email here as I consider the correspondence private.
In my lengthy reply (which again I won’t publish, but you are very welcome to) I suggested you write a post apologising to all the people you hurt while setting up Blognation and admitting your mistakes without qualification. I was pretty sure, I said, that Michael would gladly publish the mea culpa on TechCrunch, maybe even in place of the article which triggered your law suit. Subsequent conversations with Michael confirmed that he would indeed have been amenable to this kind of solution.
In other words, you could have fixed this whole sorry mess without litigation and moved on.
But you didn’t. Instead, for reasons known only to you, you powered on with your law suit, resulting in last Thursday’s non-judgement judgement. A judgement that you and I both know has no practical effect except to possibly make it difficult for Michael Arrington to travel to the UK in future. Indeed, he has already cancelled a scheduled appearance at the upcoming FOWA conference in London. I trust you’re pleased with yourself for annoying hundreds of conference-goers. Well done you.
Here’s the thing Sam: until very recently I considered you a friend. I truly wanted to help you find a solution to this which would allow you to move on with your life. I was happy to act as a mediator between you and Arrington (who is also a friend) and, unlike most people, I didn’t take sides publicly. But today I’m writing this open letter to tell you that my impartiality ends here, for the simple reason that your behavior post-judgement has been utterly fucking appalling.
Since the default judgement was entered, you have been claiming, both personally and through surrogates, that you “won” your libel action and are therefore completely vindicated. This is complete nonsense. The court in no way found that TechCrunch’s statements about you were false, but simply that no-one from the company turned up to defend them. Or to put it another way, you “won” the case in the same way that I won my last fight against Mike Tyson. I invited him to take part, but he refused. Victory is mine!
On Monday, I sent you an email asking you to summarise the judgement for me, as I wanted to understand how you saw it as a victory. Rather than answering my question, you responded by going back into negotiation mode, saying that you “would willingly ask my lawyer to waiver the judgment and all costs/damages in exchange for the name of [the person who leaked documents about Blognation to TechCrunch] as well as the crunchnote articles [that formed the basis of the suit] being removed.”
Your desire to throw away your ‘victory’ having gone through so much hassle to achieve it seemed more than a little odd, particularly given your insistence that you wanted the damages in order to pay back the money you owe to former Blognation staffers. But I replied that while I was pretty sure Michael would never give up a source, he might still be open to the offer that had been on the table since the start. I asked for your permission to put the suggestion to him, and you gladly gave it.
However, minutes later, before Arrington had a chance to reply, another email from you plopped into my inbox. I’ve thought long and hard before deciding whether to publish it – and our other correspondence – here, but you emailed me fully aware that I was covering the story and that we had previously agreed our conversations and emails were on the record unless you specified otherwise. Also, as far as I’m concerned, it’s important that the few people still defending you are aware of the insane statements you’re making to journalists behind the scenes.
The email read…
“You should also make Mike aware. Just heard from my lawyer the e-border order has been extended to cover France, Germany and Spain. I have also given him the name of all techcruch [sic] editors including [CEO] heather [Harde] and [contributor and former Blognation employee] robin [Wauters] as the judgement was also against techcrunch and not just arrington. I did not add your name as I did not expect you to stay with tc that long given your past career.”
In other words, you had instructed your lawyer to make it difficult for any TechCrunch employee to travel to the EU, not just Michael Arrington. This, I’m afraid is the precise point at where our friendship reached its end. As I said to you in my reply…
“You’ve put people [who] had nothing to do with this, including friends of mine, on a watch list? You know what – add me to the list too. Jesus Sam. That’s disgusting.”
Moments later came your reply…
“I was asked to name the people from tc by the court. If you think I am wrong will get it removed tomorow. I am not tying [sic] to be a cunt on this but you have to understand arrington made my life hell for two years and I am angry and arrington is making it worse by choosing to ignore the fundamental issue. He set out to destroy blognation and me and is not prepared to admit this. Ok will remove the rest of the stuff but heather is true CEO and on the list.”
Mindblowing. You were admitting that, driven by anger and a thirst for revenge, you had decided to punish every single member of the TechCrunch staff, including several friends of mine. But now, thanks to my email, you had suddenly changed your mind. I was still trying to decide how – or if – to reply when yet another email arrived – this one entitled ’so fucking what?’
I think it needs to be reprinted here in its entirety….
“You know what Paul fuck you and your fawned [sic] mediation, your a great guy but you write me up as the broken man and make up bollocks about me calling Arrington a lizard. [a joke I made in my Guardian column] Lets call a spade a spade. Arrington is getting [London entrepreneur Robert] loch, gabe [Rivera from Techmeme] , [puppet blogger] 1938media and [Jason] calacanis to attack me right now [I've spoken to at least two of those people and neither had heard from Arrington when they decided to criticise Sam online]. I know how he works. Bollocks to Arrington and I am sorry if others get hurt but did Arrington care what happened to 10 editors on blognation when he published my termsheet knowing it would kill the funding. Did he fuck!
Why should I apolgise [sic] to him or make life easy now for techcrunch. Fuck it I’ll let my lawyer do his job and see what happens next. If that hurts TechCrunch and it’s editors then so be it. I don’t give a shit anymore about playing nice and keeping a stiff upper lip. He lost for whatever reason justice, stupidity or arrogance you choose or all of the above.
Arrington is a smart businessman I actually admire but bollocks will I roll over and kiss his arse and take full responsibilty [sic] for what happened. He threatened me and deliberatly [sic] set out to kill blognation whilst libelling me. It’s pay backtime [sic] and if some of your friends get caught in the crossfire then that is sad but not fault Arrington has the power to make this all go away but he won’t.
Thanks in advance
I was stunned. I mean, seriously Sam, what kind of person sends this kind of mail to a journalist? The answer, you claimed the following morning, was a drunk person…
Big apologies for last night diatribe of emails. Was a lot drunk and letting of steam based on frustration. I’m sure you have never been drunk and emailed people and regretted it in the morning. Was trying to windup Arrington and simply wound you up instead. Sorry. The whole list thing is not true was just pissed off and took it too far.
I have indeed done some amazingly stupid things while drunk – many of which I’ve written about in columns and blog posts. But what I haven’t done is threatened to put innocent people on an imaginary travel watchlist or admitted to a journalist that I’m only driven by a lunatic lust for revenge. That’s not drunken behaviour – that’s at best pathetically childish lying, and at worst a sign of mental illness.
Not so very long ago, I found myself in a similar position to you: through my own actions and unprofessional behaviour I nearly destroyed a business and hurt a lot of people in the process. The difference between you and me is that, after I finally fell to earth with a bump, I didn’t sue any of my critics or try to hurt those around them who had done nothing wrong. Instead, after a brief period of craziness, I pulled myself together and wrote a confessional book outlining my (many) failures. Then I left the country for three months to clear my head and begin addressing the issues which had made me such a liability. More than a year has passed since then and in that time I’ve made decent progress on becoming a better person, but I still have a way to go.
Your own journey needs to start here Sam, and I truly hope this public calling-out from someone who at least semi-supported you in the past will help you to realise that. To be honest, it’s possible that you’re already too late to undo all the damage you’ve caused to others, and to your reputation, but it’s never too late to stop making it worse.
So please, I beg you, learn from my mistakes and stop with the pseudo-bipolar emails and the lies. Stop with the threats – real and imaginary – against innocent people. Stop, stop, stop it all. Admit how many people you’ve hurt and look deep into your soul to decide whether you really want to let the meaningless judgement against TechCrunch and Michael Arrington stand. And then, once you’ve done that, turn off your computer and get away from the Internet for a while.
A long while.
Perhaps travel; or get a job somewhere where no-one knows your reputation; or maybe even write a confessional book (it worked for me). Hell, farm llamas for all I care – just please stop lying and punishing others for the many, many mistakes you’ve made. If you can do that, and repair some of the damage you’ve done, then I hope one day I can once again consider you a friend.
Until then, we’re done. From now on, I’m on Team TechCrunch.