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PR Firm Unwisely Tangles With Penny Arcade 419

New submitter FSWKU writes "Courtesy of Penny-Arcade, Paul Christoforo of Ocean Marketing provides a perfect example of what not to do when interacting with customers, especially if you are doing so on behalf of another company. There's name dropping, an ego trip worthy of Charlie Sheen, and even what appears to be a promise to commit libel. Other outlets are already picking up the story and running with it, and an examination of Ocean Marketing's website has generated accusations of plagiarism."
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PR Firm Unwisely Tangles With Penny Arcade

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  • by kelarius ( 947816 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @05:40PM (#38507472)
    At least Charlie Sheen's ego has some success to support it, what has this guy done other than troll the entire internet?
  • A classic example... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Torinir ( 870836 ) <torinir@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @05:41PM (#38507494) Homepage Journal
    of how not to do your job. I have been laughing all day at this debacle, and will continue to do so. This is a comedy goldmine.
    • by TheKidWho ( 705796 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @05:46PM (#38507558)

      Well he did get a lot of PR so that is debatable.

      • by lightknight ( 213164 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:08PM (#38507826) Homepage

        Yes, lots of (bad) PR, and is probably going to bankrupt his clients. This particular interaction, combined with name dropping and poor spelling / grammar, ranks up there with a PR nightmare. He might as well have said that his much-awaited product was made with using parts left over from Chernobyl and orphan child labor, at a UNICEF convention. Ocean's various semi-hidden threats of violence really adds a certain flair to the discussion.

        And I have an undying urge to short the stock of Ocean's clients; were I one of Ocean's clients, I would be taking the steel wool and matches approach to my relationship with Ocean.

        But seriously, I think everyone on /. needs to chip in, and buy this guy some spelling lessons:

        "OK Mike whatever you say lol , are you sure hour not in Boston I spoke to the person who ran the show in Boston last year. If you let some little kid influence you over a pre order then we don’t want to be a your show ,Ill be on the floor anyway so come find me , I’m born and raised in Boston I know the people who run the city inside and out watch the way you talk to people you never know who they know it’s a small industry and everyone knows everyone. Your acting like a douchbag not that it matters pax east pax west , e3 , CES , Gamer Con , SSXW ,Comic Con, Germany I’m all over the place. If we want to be there we will be there with industry badges or with a booth you think I can’t team up with turtle beach , Callibur or Koy Christmas , I can’t get Kevin Kelly to pull some strings or G4 , Paul Eibler Ex CEO of take 2 , Rich Larocco Konami , Cliff Blizinski Epic who were working with on a gears version , Activision who were working with on a MW3 and Spider man Bundle , The Convention Center Owners themselves , Mayor of Boston come on Bud you run a show that’s all you do and lease a center in Cities you have no pull in its all about who you know not what you do. I’ll see space where ever I want , with who I want when I want and where I want so many ways around you and so many connections in this industry its silly. Anyway , I have no issue with you Sean Buckley Engadget, Scott Lowe IGN and the list goes on and on. Little kids unhappy with a PRE ORDER starting trouble and you email that to us , he’s a customer unless you’re his boyfriend then you should side with the company not the customer. Be Careful"

        • by pak9rabid ( 1011935 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:51PM (#38508342)
          Cocaine is a helluva drug.
          ~Paul Christoforo
        • by frisket ( 149522 ) <peter @ s i> on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @07:13PM (#38508582) Homepage
          No such thing as bad PR in these people's eyes. What surprises me is that anyone is surprised at this guy's behaviour. PR is thickly populated with semi-literates whose business isn't actually Public Relations at all. It is clear from the exchange that this guy is basically in import-export clerical operations (dealing with customs, handling queries, arranging booths, attending shows, etc). Unfortunately, line management in the PR business is virtually non-existent, so no-one is monitoring his behaviour or how he handles a customer, and he is very clearly incapable of understanding why his behaviour would even merit comment. I'd say call off the dogs and leave him: he's too far down the food chain to be worth bothering about. I'm sorry for the customer, but he has to learn that this is what will happen if you buy goods from a PR company, or from a supplier who won't talk to you but employs a PR company to do the job instead.
      • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @07:47PM (#38509042)
        Any marketer or PR person who believe the 'any PR is good PR' is not going to stay in the industry for long. It is an old trope that has sunk many careers. It might have worked pre-internet, but is a horrible idea now.
        • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @08:12PM (#38509292)

          Yep. The only time "bad" PR is good PR is when it is outrage by a small segment or manufactured entirely. So like when some people got up in arms about the nuke scene in Call of Duty 4, it wasn't actually bad PR. While those people were complaining and the media was reporting on it, the controversy made gamers say "I need to see that!" The actual customers were interested and thus it was good PR in reality.

          When you get PR for something like this, or for criminal activity or whatever it is just flat out bad PR. It scares customers away and you never want that.

    • My guess is that no one who has an interest in moving this cheap chinese hardcrap inventory is not laughing. This guy irreparably damaged sales and the brand image.

    • by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @05:56PM (#38507696)
      I was one of the lucky customers to order an Avenger PS3 on Dec 5th via Amazon. There were only about a dozen reviews on amazon, and mostly positive, so I placed the order. I waited for about a week after the amazon estimated shipping date, and asked why my status was only "Shipping soon". Their first reply was that it was a pre-order, and that Amazon got the date wrong. I never saw anything on the product page to indicate it was a pre-order. They said that the product would be shipping Dec 17th. I waited 9 more days, and asked why it was still "shipping soon". At this point, I suggested that they do the right thing, and contact all the amazon customers and let them know the status. They pointed me to their order page (not through amazon) which had an update, but no specific date on it.

      Today, I saw all the posts and reviews at amazon, and canceled my order. I commented that the reviews on amazon had bottomed out, and that I had lost all confidence in the product and company. The reply I got was simply "It's spam". Yeah, 128 1-star reviews from different people, and it's spam. This guy is already living in his own universe.
      • by SethJohnson ( 112166 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:05PM (#38507782) Homepage Journal
        What's most interesting about your experience was that Amazon had "about a dozen reviews" for a product that hadn't even gotten into the hands of American consumers. If anyone is spamming Amazon, it sounds like the marketing company selling the product astroturfed Amazon with fake pre-release reviews.

        I hope these kooks come to "SSXW" in Spring of 2012 as promised.

      • by RobinEggs ( 1453925 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:26PM (#38508032)

        The reply I got was simply "It's spam"

        Here's the problem: I'd bet money that at least 1/2 of those *are* spam. Vindictive pricks who bomb the shit out of product review scores are becoming more common. They'll negatively review products they've never seen from companies or people they've never spoken to because of the author/companies political views, PR gaffs, a nerd-o-sphere uproar like this, etc. They'll organize campaigns to bomb the reviews of every single book from an author or every product from an entire corporation for purely political or vengeful reasons. We've discussed this problem on slashdot many times before.

        These self-righteous bastards view it as some kind of justice, when in fact they're just polluting the review ecosystem with lies, hearsay, and crappy manifestos. If the product or company is that bad it will become clear, from the legitimate reviews, quite quickly. No need to break out your weird brand of street justice and fuck up the system for everyone.

        This time the people at Ocean Marketing are arrogant, mismanaging pricks; most of the time you can't be so certain when you see this kind of event unfolding.

        Honestly, when I was reading the Penny-Arcade post I started wondering whether this was really just a vengeful ex-employee, or even corporate espionage from another vendor. It wasn't until I read multiple older reviews and forum posts corroborating this story that I became convinced otherwise.

        Beware internet justice: you never really know who's behind the keyboard or just what kind of destructive, ignorant campaign they're running.

      • by SteeldrivingJon ( 842919 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @08:03PM (#38509196) Homepage Journal
        Christoforo had an Avenger for sale on his ebay site, which made me wonder if he was diverting (i.e., stealing) them and selling them himself, while the rightful purchasers get stiffed.
    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @08:27PM (#38509446)

      I'm not really finding it funny. One guy isn't getting stuff he needed to give gifts for christmas. Other guy just lost his livelihood to a stupid and unprofessional emotional outburst.

      Finally the guy who invented a harness that made playing more accessible to disabled kids is getting smeared all across the sites for things he had little to do with.

      I'd say this is mostly a tragedy of how internet rage can fuck up lives of people that don't deserve it, and those who do deserve it get a whole lot more fucking up then they should (guy's wife and child apparently getting hit by internet mob now).
      And in the end, the original guy is still not getting the stuff he wanted for christmas. Everyone loses, and I really find that quite tragic rather then funny.

      • by Skarecrow77 ( 1714214 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:56PM (#38510392)

        I'm with you on the guy who designed the controller being unfairly caught in this, but how do you see "one guy just lost his livelihood to a stupid and unprofessional emotional outburst" as a tragedy?

        That is exactly how one loses their livelihood. That's the process of screwing up so badly you get booted from the profession. That's what it entails. When your job is to work with people, and you screw up politeness as royally as that guy did, if you don't lose your job then something is very very wrong with the world. Read all the emails, to both Dave the customer and Gabe at PA, and Paul's "apologies". It's quite clear this guy doesn't give a crap until he's caught. Also this appears not to be the first time he's been called out on this type of exchange with customers. How many do-overs do you expect him to get in his professional life?

        He fucked up his job about as badly as one can fuck up their job, by shitting all over the customer, and then shitting all over one of the major PR outlets in the market for the product he was representing.

        In any measure of the situation, he deserves to be fired and ostracized from the market in the future for his failure. That isn't tragedy, that is justice. Let him get in the unemployment line and maybe somebody competent, worthy, and sane can step in to fill the role he obviously is not fit to handle.

        • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

          My point was that it's tragic for all involved (including the guy who fucked up), and the only ones having fun are the internet mob members who like to laugh at other peoples' misfortune.

          I wasn't trying to take a stance defending or attacking anyone involved.

      • by downhole ( 831621 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @12:40AM (#38511632) Homepage Journal

        I'm with you on everyone but the guy who did it. Did you read the emails? And the dates on all of them? This isn't an outburst, bad day, roid rage, ADHD, etc. This guy is a 100% pure bullshit artist. If you've never met this type in real life, consider yourself lucky. Every word out of their mouths is bullshit meant to improve their image and make themselves seem more important, and there isn't the slightest bit of substance to any of it. They will not genuinely reform or recant because of something like this, they'll just spew even more bullshit. He seems to be backing down for now only because there is a virtual gun to his head. He will behave well exactly as long as that gun is there and not one second longer. He deserves everything he's getting and then some more. He might genuinely reform some day, but don't believe it without lots of hard evidence from multiple people other than him.

        I feel a little sorry also for the wife and kid who may not have known what they were getting into by getting involved with this guy, but hopefully they'll learn what he's really like now.

        • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

          Yes, I'm sure kid is sorry that his mom got involved with his dead. Being born into this world sucks. Do you even read what you're writing?

          Fun part: I was replying to the guy who said how funny this whole incident is. I point out that all of those participating are actually suffering one way or another and the only ones having fun are the internet mob members. Where the hell did I actually say that the guy losing his job is unjustified?

      • by Tom ( 822 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @07:14AM (#38513440) Homepage Journal

        Other guy just lost his livelihood to a stupid and unprofessional emotional outburst.

        If he were a truck driver, or a factory worker, I would agree that he shouldn't suffer this penalty.

        But he isn't. He is in the business of public relations. He just lost his job because he couldn't do it.

  • That must be way they plan to close between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores.

  • by CambodiaSam ( 1153015 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @05:47PM (#38507576)
    I'd like to propose a new Internet meme: "Dave with a V".
  • Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cranky_chemist ( 1592441 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @05:52PM (#38507642)

    From the article:

    "You placed a pre order just like any software title the gets a date moved due to the tweaks and bugs not being worked out and GameStop or any other place holds your cash and im sure you don’t complain to activision or epic games so put on your big boy hat and wait it out like everyone else."
    Well, now your little tirade has been Slashdotted. I hope you take your pwning like a big boy.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PrescriptionWarning ( 932687 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:11PM (#38507876)
      Thing is, there's a difference between the expected maturity of a representative of a company to not behave like someone trying to win an argument on the internet. The complaint that was made was a valid one and shouldn't have been dismissed as one belonging to a child. I think if the argument went any further that guy from the company would have brought out a Nazi comparison at some point.
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @07:27PM (#38508762)

        That's the thing I can't wrap my mind around; no matter how stupid you think the customer's complaint is, you treat them with respect. There is nothing whatsoever to be gained by being an asshole to a paying customer. There can be no positive the very least, you just lost potential sales, and at worst, you just cost yourself a job. No matter what happens, you lose.

        This isn't even really a customer service thing necessarily. It's simple logic. Even the most patronizing, insincere apology from a major company without a death wish is at least polite. I've gotten some politely worded 'Go Fuck Yourself' responses in the past, but I have never seen something so outright hostile, nor stupid, on behalf of an employee for a professional marketing firm in my life. Typically you have to get your hands on leaked internal emails to see retarded shit like this as regards a customer.

        I've worked in Customer Service for many years, including a stint providing computer tech support to people that, if not for the accent, could have convincingly passed themselves off as recent immigrants from the Brazilian Rain Forest where electricity is wizard shit, and I have never seen or heard an exchange like that. We all think it, but we never say it.

        What a fucking idiot this Paul guy is.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @05:53PM (#38507650)

    their servers need to put on their "big boy pants"

  • Don't pick a fight (Score:5, Interesting)

    by newsman220 ( 1928648 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @05:53PM (#38507656)
    with people who buy ink by the barrel. That's an old saying about fighting newspapers. What's the best way to update that for the internet? "Don't pick a fight with people who have huge daily unique views." "Don't pick a fight with people whose backlinks beat 5 digits." Help me out here.
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @05:58PM (#38507708)

    Now maybe if just N-Control had there own Marketing maybe they would not end up as part of this mess.

    • by black3d ( 1648913 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:22PM (#38507994)

      Apparently N-Control decided to stick with this guy even when they were told not to: []

      To explain the pre-amble, in the article, Paul pretends he's Brandon in an email earlier on:

      Hi Joel,

      I have been following this story since this morning when someone notified me about what was going on. I did not write that response to you.

      Yes, in the past I received email at but even then we were an outsourced marketing agency for N-Control. I no longer receive email at that address because we fired N-Control as a client about 8 months ago due to constant shipping delays (which we had to deal with) and their association with Paul Cristoforo who is a street thug masquerading as a self proclaimed "Marketing Professional". This guy is a complete fool and somehow strong armed his way into working with the company so we walked away. I am not surprised in the slightest bit by what's going on right now. In fact, we told the owners of the company on many occasions that this would eventually happen.

      I wasn't going to chime in but since he is replying as me, I can't resist. I personally can't stand him.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:02PM (#38507750)

    Seriously. Re-read the e-mails and ask yourself, "Does this sound like something a sociopath would say?"

    If you don't know what a sociopath is, then read Snakes in Suits [].

  • Go PA! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mustPushCart ( 1871520 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:04PM (#38507768)

    Go Penny Arcade! Not only do they run one of the oldest and kickass web comics for games, they run their own gaming convention, their own charity called child's play (its mentioned in the email thread) and they've featured jack thompson on the comic a bunch of times along with the modest video game proposal thing: []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:09PM (#38507838)

    Thank you for your email. Due to the overwhelming customer feedback we're getting from the situation with Ocean Marketing we are asking those with specific product related concerns to send emails to Please know that Ocean Marketing is no longer handling any PR or customer service for our company. We apologize to our customers for Ocean Marketing's remark to one of our customers. We at Kotkin Enterprises know that it's our customers are the true arbiters of our products success and we would never intentionally jeopardize what we see as a relationship between us and our customers. We hope that this incident hasn't put you off of purchasing a truly revolutionary controller. Thank you for expressing your concerns and we hope for your continued support in the future. Kotkin Enterprises Avenger Controller Customer Service Team

  • by msclrhd ( 1211086 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:27PM (#38508056)

    1. Spell your companies name wrong many times on your website and twitter, plagiarizing content for your site from other sites.
    2. Give cryptic responses to a query on the progress of an order from a customer.
    3. Go on a trippy, grammar and spelling free email rage with the customer and an owner of a successful and popular website.
    4. Threaten the people in step 3 and name drop any important people you met briefly or have no association with what-so-ever.
    5. ...
    6. Profit???

    Also known as ... how to implode a company overnight.

  • by geek ( 5680 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:33PM (#38508108) []

    Feel free to use his LinkedIn page to contact those he knows to bring attention to this situation.

  • by Borland ( 123542 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:37PM (#38508184)

    This should be entertaining to me; it is a pretty sweet burn to someone that appears to deserve his fate. Yet I can't laugh at the exchange; it's like taking joy in reality television. Many people do, but I just feel dirty watching the downward trajectory of humanity. Is the customer that less of a dick? Is his motivation at making this exchange public to help other frustrated gamers or to make revenge so sweet and cold? The motive is probably somewhere closer to revenge than help.

    • I stopped feeling any remorse when the guy started making threats. Fuck him.

    • by twotacocombo ( 1529393 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @07:09PM (#38508530)
      Revenge? This guy fronted his cash for two months, won't have his product in time for Christmas, and then this low life spit in his face to top it off. As a customer, he's well within his rights to raise a stink. As to agreeing or disagreeing with his actions, that's up for you and I to decide, but it doesn't change the fact that he's entitled to some sort of recourse in this situation. All the PR guy had to do was give him a simple, courteous answer. "I'm sorry, I don't know", "They will ship by.." "They have shipped..", etc. Never in my darkest days of doing phone support would I ever have considered what this assclown did as acceptable. No matter how rude or combative the customer is (and as far as upset customers go, Dave was a gem), somebody is paying you to do a job, so you damn well better do it. If you want to run your own business into the ground, have at, but this guy has now messed with someone else's money.
    • by TrekkieGod ( 627867 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:42PM (#38510242) Homepage Journal

      Is the customer that less of a dick? Is his motivation at making this exchange public to help other frustrated gamers or to make revenge so sweet and cold? The motive is probably somewhere closer to revenge than help.

      When Mike said he would cancel the dude's booth at Pax if he had one, the customer e-mailed Mike saying that wouldn't be necessary. It doesn't sound like revenge to me. The customer wrote polite e-mails asking for an order status update on something he had already paid for and received a completely unprofessional response. This is actually one of the best uses for the press. When the big guys don't value your two controller purchases, you spread the story to the press so that they can stand to lose a lot more than a two controller order. That ensures every customer is respected.

      I should also mention that at this point, boycotting the product is not the correct response. This was a representative for a PR firm which has already been fired by the guys actually selling the project. Mission accomplished, no more punishment is warranted.

      • by Borland ( 123542 )

        You make a good point. I thought I had read the entire chain, but somehow I missed his responses to Mike. The treatise back to the guy was over-the-top, but he was provoked. *Shrug* The PR guy was so out of his mind stupid (and apparently still appears to be going strong) that it seemed like kicking the mentally disabled.

        But I didn't see the chain continue to where "Dave" had calmed down and took the higher road after all. The whole thing still doesn't give me fuzzy feelings for anyone, but my Soap box

        • The treatise back to the guy was over-the-top, but he was provoked...But I didn't see the chain continue to where "Dave" had calmed down and took the higher road after all.

          Well, don't get me wrong, I'm with you in that the customer didn't exactly behave professionally after he was insulted. However, Dave is not a PR professional, he's a customer. It would be nice if human beings were better than that in general, but I hold the guy who actually gets paid to deal with the customers to a higher standard than I hold a customer who has just been insulted for simply asking when the stuff he has paid for will ship.

          I agree that ideally Dave should have kept a cool head through it a

  • by black3d ( 1648913 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:45PM (#38508278)

    Don't post negative product reviews to "punish" Paul. It won't (directly, anyhow). It will directly punish the manufacturers of the product, for which Paul is merely a third-party marketing arm. As Dave points out in his emails - the product is great and he truly feels the public should have access to the product. Trying to drive the company which manufactures it into the ground isn't going to help anyone.

    Avenger has indicated they'll no longer use OceanMarketing after the events of the past day. This guy should be going down in flames on his own, not taking a great product with him. Sure N-Control, etc, made mistakes working with this guy. Sure, like most companies they saw only the $$$ but this is nothing new or unique to that particular organisation.

    • And yet they clearly should have looked at least *a little bit* into the PR firm they hired. Even a cursory glance at their website shows massive copyright infringement and fraudulent credentials.

    • "we fired N-Control as a client about 8 months ago due to constant shipping delays (which we had to deal with) and their association with Paul Cristoforo who is a street thug masquerading as a self proclaimed "Marketing Professional". This guy is a complete fool and somehow strong armed his way into working with the company so we walked away. I am not surprised in the slightest bit by what's going on right now. In fact, we told the owners of the company on many occasions that this would eventually happen."

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @08:07PM (#38509248) Homepage

    The Federal Trade Commission's Mail Order Rule [] applies here. It's real simple:

    1. Mail orders must ship within 30 days unless there was an explicit delivery date specified. If the seller knows there will be a delay in shipping, they must contact the customer and offer the customer a full refund or the option to wait another 30 days, at the customer's choice.
    2. After 60 days, the seller must provide a full refund unless the customer explicitly consents in writing to a further delay. If the customer takes no action, the refund must be sent.

    Staples paid a big fine for this. [] So did the Beanie Baby [] people. In the early days of the Internet, a lot of companies were hit by this, because they had web sites accepting orders at high speed, but the back end fulfillment operation was manual and couldn't keep up. Now, most serious online merchants have the ordering system tied to the inventory system, so they stop taking orders when the inventory is used up,

  • The Bloggess (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:52PM (#38510350) Homepage

    A few months back, TheBloggess got a generic PR Pitch, completely disconnected from what she blogs about. She responded in her usual fashion, by directing them to a page that, in part, had a photo of Wil Wheaton collating papers. (See: ) Usually, the PR companies that get this response don't reply or send back a polite response. A VP at this PR firm decided to reply to call her a "bitch". Did I say Reply? I meant Reply All. Including TheBloggess. An e-mail tiff ensued with VP claiming that the TheBloggess should be grateful that they sent her the pitch as their sending pitches to her was what gave her relevancy. She ended the exchange with "Please stand by for a demonstration of relevancy." Then, she blogged and tweeted about it.

    Now, if you don't know, TheBloggess is big in the blogging world. She has almost 200,000 followers on Twitter and has a HUGE blog following. Her followers went berserk and inundated the company's Twitter account. Wil Wheaton who had posed for that photo on TheBloggess' site and who has almost 2 million Twitter followers tweeted about it. The PR company was forced to backpedal big time.

  • by jvillain ( 546827 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:17PM (#38510614)
    ... HBGary decided they would teach Anonymous a thing or two. I think Colbert could work with this.

The absent ones are always at fault.