If A Bigfoot Hunter Doesn't Have His Reputation, What Does He Have?

Law, WTF?

America is an increasingly crass nation, true. But there are still some places where decorum and good breeding are expected and even demanded.

For instance, anyone acquainted with cryptid enthusiasts knows that a gentleman seeking introduction to their society must first build a solid repute for probity. In turn, those admitted to the drawing-rooms and salons of the cryptidologists know that only the most polished among them can aspire to the rarefied circle of Bigfoot hunters, the royalty of the cryptid-seeking community. And yet even Bigfoot hunters — elite as they are — can encounter self-doubt when they ask themselves, "yes, my poise and quality have made me a Bigfoot hunter, but do I possess the savoir-faire necessary to achieve a position amongst the Bigfoot hunters of Florida? Can I persevere in that imperial land, where the exacting standards for urbanity and good deportment strain the abilities even of graduates of the finest finishing schools in Tampa and Orlando?"

By necessity, when swimming in these heady waters, a good reputation is everything. So you see, when one Florida Bigfoot hunter accused another Florida Bigfoot hunter of being crazy, the latter had no choice but to sue for defamation.

Our story takes us to the aforementioned Florida, where Bigfoot is sought by our players. I admit that I — embarrassingly untutored in these things — labored under the naive belief that Bigfoot is a phenomenon of the Pacific Northwest. That, apparently, is an error on the level of believing that Duke is one of the Ivies. Bigfoot-hunting has a rich tradition in Florida. Some say that Bigfoot (never say Bigfeet; they'll wonder if you came in by the servant's entrance) migrated to Florida for its warmer climes and the easy supply of food (particularly in the late afternoon and early evening hours); those prone to unkindness suggest that the migration was a result of a Bigfoot flight seeking refuge from the increasing prevalence of Chupacabra-Americans in their traditional realms in the West.

Florida is supposed to be a land of civility and good judgment. But something went badly awry in 2005 during the Bigfoot Field Researchs Organization Expedition, an annual social event that is a jewel of the season like the Kentucky Derby or the opening of a new production of Die Walküre. The expedition — conducted by the intrepid Matthew Moneymaker, of the California Moneymakers — was quite ruined as a result of a disagreement between Moneymaker and Mr. John Johnsen, heir to the Grendel Films fortune and author of the esteemed philosophical work Hunt the Dogman.

It would be uncouth to delve into all of the details; ought not such things remain between gentlemen? Suffice it to say that Mssrs. Moneymaker and Johnsen have both philosophical and personal disputes, and allowed those disputes to ripen into open and notorious hostility. Some say Mr. Johnsen fired the first salvo, accusing Mr. Moneymaker of premising the expedition on money rather than art and science (surely this was a deft thrust at an unfortunate last name), and of mismanaging it entirely. He concluded, using the wit now in fashion among Florida's devotees of Mr. Wilde, . . . "[m]oney, sir, not the truth. . . . So if you want the people here or anywhere to hold anything you say as the truth, perhaps a soul searching is in order. What goes around comes around, sir. Perhaps the worm has started to turn."

This cheek quite overcame the better angels of Mr. Moneymaker's nature. In his response, he asserted that Mr. Johnsen's conduct on the expedition was quite inappropriate, and in his disquiet even stooped to use words like "not in the same reality as us" and even the insult-crescendo "colorful, middle-aged, paranoid schitzo from Tampa." He even accused Mr. Johnsen of booking the expedition upon false pretenses and bringing firearms with the intent of shooting Bigfoot, rather than merely watching Bigfoot and, ideally, communing with Bigfoot in some socially acceptable form or other. In addition, Mr. Moneymaker asserted that Mr. Johnsen is not a member of the mainstream Bigfoot hunting community, but a sort of conspiracy theorizer — a Bigfoot Truther, if you will — who subscribes to the controversial belief that the famous Patterson footage contains evidence of a Bigfoot Massacre.

This could not stand. Johnsen had no choice but to defend his reputation. Duels having sadly fallen out of favor — for let me assure you, a duel between experienced Bigfoot hunters is a thing of grave and terrible majesty — Johnsen turned to the courts and filed suit for defamation of character. You can find his complaint here and the docket of actions in the case to date here. Johnsen sues not just Moneymaker, but Cryptomundo, Inc., a company that reportedly runs the Bigfoot hunting site Cryptomundo, and its proprietor, Mr. Lauren Coleman. The complaint, as legal circumstances require, includes the offending communications regarding Mr. Johnsen. Mr. Johnsen asserts that he has falsely been branded as crazy and falsely accused of carrying firearms into the Ocala National Forrest.

But the legal system — which, after all, is a vocation for tradesmen — does not recognize the inviolability of good reputation of society's elite. Whatever the truth of what happened on that ill-fated expedition, Mr. Johnsen faces some formidable challenges. Under the First Amendment, we all have rather free reign to state opinions on a wide variety of matters. Courts — even courts in Florida — generally find that statements of opinion are by their nature not defamatory. Courts have often found opinions like "colorful, middle-aged, paranoid schitzo" to be protected speech. See, e.g., Lampkin-Asam v. Miami Daily News, Inc., 408 So.2d 666, 667 (1981) (calling plaintiff as “almost paranoid” was expression of pure opinion entitled to absolute constitutional protection); Wetzel v. Gulf Oil Corp., 455 F.2d 857 (9th Cir.1972) (calling plaintiff “nuts” and “crazy” was expression of pure opinion); Fram v. Yellow Cab Co. of Pittsburgh, 380 F.Supp. 1314 (W.D.Pa.1974) (statement that plaintiff's comments sounded “a little bit like the sort of paranoid thinking that you get from a schizophrenic” was pure opinion); DeMoya v. Walsh, 441 So.2d 1120 (1983) (calling co-worker “raving maniac” and “raving idiot” was pure opinion, not slander).

Regrettably, then, no matter how much the words "not in the same reality as us" cut Mr. Johnsen to the quick — no matter how much it hurt to have it suggested that he had some mental defect that did not allow him to see the same reality as other Floridians spending their weekends traipsing through the woods looking for Bigfoot – the courts may give him no solace. Indeed, in these dark days when the sort who become jurors are impudent and scornful of their social betters, there is a real danger that a jury may not believe that Mr. Johnsen has been damaged at all. They may even conclude that you can't hurt a professional Bigfoot hunter's reputation by calling him crazy.

I just don't know what the world is coming to sometimes.

Hat tip to Alan.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

34 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Dredd  •  Jun 21, 2012 @3:51 am

    The part about being falsely accused of carrying firearms in the forest can still hold however (assuming he can prove it), can't it?

  2. Rhapsody  •  Jun 21, 2012 @4:16 am

    I'm not sure whose mistake it is, but Mr. Loren Coleman is, in fact, a man. I'm going to pretend it was Mr. Johnsens mistake, because he seems to be the only one unlikely to check his facts before, you know, making a fool of himself in a very expensive way in court.

  3. lakonislate  •  Jun 21, 2012 @4:16 am

    If they're asking themselves if they have "savior-faire," are they implying that they are Jesus? That could add a whole new dimension to the case.

    Yeah, I'm just using this as an excuse to be a Grammar Nazi… But it's a funny typo.

  4. tom  •  Jun 21, 2012 @5:10 am

    You read Fielding when young, did you not?

  5. Greg  •  Jun 21, 2012 @5:43 am

    Wow, you seemed to enjoy writing this article a wee bit too much. I was laughing the entire time I was reading.

  6. Ken  •  Jun 21, 2012 @6:28 am

    Stupid typos.

  7. Alan  •  Jun 21, 2012 @7:01 am

    Wow, your discoveries reveal an even deeper rabbit hole than I thought originally. Bigfoot truthers- who knew?

  8. Sarahw  •  Jun 21, 2012 @7:21 am

    My husband and I frightened the cats reading this, this AM.

  9. HeatherCat  •  Jun 21, 2012 @7:27 am

    "Florida is supposed to be a land of civility and good judgment…"

    LOL, excuse me a moment while I snort/giggle away reminding myself why I finally up and moved away from there after living in the middle of all that good judgment!

    And for anyone who wants to know, the proper terminology in Florida for 'bigfoot' is Skunk Ape.

  10. PhilG  •  Jun 21, 2012 @7:48 am

    Beautifully written. I'll need to immerse myself in the Bigfoot Truther movement now, as that is the most interesting thing I've read today.

  11. Jack  •  Jun 21, 2012 @7:55 am

    You scraped this from a David Brooks editorial, right? Right?

  12. Andrea  •  Jun 21, 2012 @8:00 am

    How much do I love the term "Chupacabra-Americans" ?!

  13. Grifter  •  Jun 21, 2012 @8:22 am

    I read this while smoking a pipe and harrumphing. Jolly good show!

  14. Goober  •  Jun 21, 2012 @8:24 am

    A country full of people that run and hide behind the skirts of government anytime we get our feelers hurt. *spit*

    Kind of turns the stomach.

    That being said, in my humble opinion, anyone that goes into the woods looking for a 7 foot tall, 600 pound bipedal gorilla that no one knows anything about at all would be a damned fool to do so without having at least one gun handy in the expedition force, for self defense if for nothing else. (Not saying that bigfoot is real, mind you, but these people do believe that, and so they are, indeed (at least in their minds), hunting for an animal that could easily tear them limb from limb if it got a mind to, and they criticize folks carrying guns while doing so. Who's the moron?)

  15. Goober  •  Jun 21, 2012 @8:24 am

    For example, I would never go into the woods hoping to catch video footage of a grizzly bear, and then criticize my expedition mate who brought a gun along just in case. I'd probably be grateful.

  16. mojo  •  Jun 21, 2012 @8:37 am

    Bigfoots (feet?) in Floridia? Where are they livin', the swamp?

  17. Sarahw  •  Jun 21, 2012 @8:41 am

    Goober plus there are alligators.

  18. Sarahw  •  Jun 21, 2012 @8:43 am

    Alligators on pontoon boats.

  19. PLW  •  Jun 21, 2012 @9:00 am

    @mojo: It's Bigfoot, both singular and plural, you rube. "(never say Bigfeet; they'll wonder if you came in by the servant's entrance)".

  20. Ghost  •  Jun 21, 2012 @9:07 am

    I had never heard of the Bigfoot massacre. Who was behind that? If our inept government actually succeeded at ridding our national forrests of a giant bipedal monster, I have a feeling they would have touted that rather loudly. I can understand the conspiracies around alien cover ups (don't want the Commies to know you've got that technology), but why lie about Bigfoot?

    Or was it the Roman Catholic Bishops in order to hide evidence of evolution?

    Or Dick Cheney in a freak quail hunting accident?

  21. Erbo  •  Jun 21, 2012 @9:08 am

    There's a reason why Florida has its very own tag on FARK.com.

  22. Joe  •  Jun 21, 2012 @9:18 am

    @Goober

    Actually the “Preserve Bigfoot, Nessie, and Mermaids Society” state that Bigfoot are noted to be quite timid and shy which is why a gun would likely not be required. It’s also the reason they insist these creatures are only spotted after consuming copious amounts of alcohol as opposed to the more likely and rational possibility they do not in fact exist.

    Alligators however are very real and having a gun in this case would be an excellent idea. Especially given their nasty temperament and propensity for eating family pets as discovered by this poor fellow: http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/jax/2800031711.html Besides, a pair of gator boots is quite the fashion statement.

    Bigfoot and gators aside however, the real danger in the swamps and forests of Florida are the mosquitoes, who outnumber humans by about 1 gazillion trillion to one. The single most important weapon you can carry in Florida is the super size can of deep woods off and a back up can of Raid. It’s rumored that the last time a member of the Bigfoot Field Research Organization ventured out into the swamps without this protection, he was found dead a week later having had all his bodily fluids sucked from his body.

  23. Corporal Lint  •  Jun 21, 2012 @9:45 am

    If they're asking themselves if they have "savior-faire," are they implying that they are Jesus? That could add a whole new dimension to the case.

    A Savior Faire would be a Christian version of a Renaissance Faire, right? Replace the buxom alewives with Franciscan Sisters of the Order of Saint Clare.

  24. Chris R.  •  Jun 21, 2012 @9:51 am

    for let me assure you, a duel between experienced Bigfoot hunters is a thing of grave and terrible majesty

    Died right there.

  25. Margaret  •  Jun 21, 2012 @10:18 am

    Yes, I'm interested in this alleged "Bigfoot Massacre". WHY HAVE I NOT HEARD OF THIS?

  26. G Thompson  •  Jun 21, 2012 @10:55 am

    Everyone knows that the northern hemisphere's Bigfoot is a myth propagated by denialists who cannot accept the clear and unmitigated fact that the Australian Yowie ate them all.

    A Dropbear (Thylarctos plummetus found via Australian Museum official site) told me this so it's true as vegemite and cheese is yum! :)

  27. mojo  •  Jun 21, 2012 @11:00 am

    "Nod, smile, and try to move away slowly. These loons can be dangerous."

  28. TomB  •  Jun 21, 2012 @11:41 am

    This situation is just crying out for a "Real Men of Genius" parody.

  29. darius404  •  Jun 21, 2012 @11:42 am

    G Thompson, you are absolutely correct, though I'm surprised you were able to encounter one of the notorious Australian Drop Bears and survive.

  30. marco73  •  Jun 22, 2012 @6:47 am

    Sure there's mosquitos, snakes, alligators, panthers, bobcats, coyotes, foxes and bears here in Central Florida.

    Actually, the second most dangerous thing in the Ocala National Forest are the deer hunters. It's illegal to shoot at deer from a vehicle. Every year, the state wildlife agents will set up a fake deer standing beside the road. Invariably, hunters will drive by all day, shooting from their truck. With so many bullets flying around, there are several hunters killed every deer season, some even accidentally shooting themselves.

    But the most dangerous thing in the ONF are the dopers, craxies, and serial killers, who kill other humans and then dump their bodies.
    http://www.gainesville.com/article/20060115/LOCAL/201150318

    So if you are going into the forest looking for Bigfoot or Swamp Ape, you better be packing to protect yourself from everything else.

  31. Doubtful News  •  Jun 22, 2012 @8:13 am

    We posted this story on our skeptically-themed weird news site, Doubtful News. I used to post more on Bigfoot news but it simply got so ridiculous, that I’ve cut back. I’ve removed some posts rather than deal with off-kilter folks (as exhibited above) that are peppered throughout the paranormal community. I’m waiting to hear about the promised earthshattering news of the Bigfoot DNA results (apparently including samples taken from another Bigfoot massacre, not the one mentioned above) and the crystal clear video footage being prepared. Should those long awaiting results appear, I shall be delighted. Until then, I’m getting old.
     
    I talk a bit about the crazy state of Bigfootery in the latest version of Monster Talk (a skeptically-minded podcast) here: http://www.skeptic.com/podcasts/monstertalk/12/06/13/
     
    Also, you may want to send a note to the various Bigfoot blogs who have a nasty habit of scraping entire pieces and reposting on their blog. They will be apologetic and restructure it with just an excerpt, if you catch them. They are most often ad-based and wish to keep you on their blog instead of heading to the original source. It fits right in with the gentlemanly conduct you noted above. Example: http://bigfootevidence.blogspot.com/2012/06/guy-suing-cryptomundo-and-matt.html
     

  32. Ken  •  Jun 22, 2012 @11:24 am
  33. Robert White  •  Jun 23, 2012 @1:16 pm

    I have, as a true and correct recollection that one day, somewhere in my seven-to-nine year-old experience (I am now 47) while all the kids were yelling about how they would sue me or each other, and they'd have their parents sue mine or theirs', that these kids were serious in seeing suits at law as the ultimate act of revenge violence. The actual be-all and end-all of "making someone pay".

    I was struck horrified.

    Every day I read something that makes me realize that all those kids grew up to do that very thing and my smug nine-to-seven year-old self smiles in grim "i damn well knew-it"-ness.

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