This has been the summer of the Internet commenter, whose anonymous, entertaining, and sometimes abusive manners have been dissected in New York’s recent cover story on Brooklyn Real Estate, a much-debated column in Time magazine, and a cross-Internet debate on whether commenting should just be turned off altogether. So it seems sort of fitting that one of nymag.com’s most annoying commenters made it big in the New York Times today.
He’s an Australian named Tommii Cosgrove, and the screeds he posted all across our site back in May have apparently resulted in the financier Steve Rattner losing his job. (No, it’s not the Steven Rattner from yesterday.) Maybe you saw one of his comments before they were deleted — he’s a D.J., he was happily married to a wife who was apparently an escort, until Rattner allegedly hired her services in London and became infatuated, etc. (Cosgrove’s complete set of accusations can be read here.)
Anyway, the Times describes Cosgrove as having “at a minimum, a vivid imagination,” a characterization with which Gawker takes issue today. Having spent the best part of a month engaged in battle with Cosgrove to keep his comments off our site — they had nothing to do with our editorial, and he spammed us hundreds of times — we’ll take the Times’ side there.
Over the course of May, Cosgrove returned to nymag.com to repeatedly — and creatively — post his rant. He used express registration to create more than twenty different identities (a selection of his aliases: “UPSET08, CRAZY10, d1ckhead2, assw1pe, ahmp1ssed0ff”), up to five simultaneously. And he figured out that posting late at night or early in the morning, when moderators were less likely to be watching, meant that his comments were more likely to stay on the site longer before being deleted. At times Cosgrove was posting every five seconds while we were deleting him. Ultimately he posted hundreds of times.
And then, somehow, he won. Today’s Times reports that Rattner — who admits to the affair but not the more lurid of Cosgrove’s accusations — was asked to step down from his position at Credit Suisse. “During the time of the affair and its aftermath, no one at Credit Suisse complained about his job performance — nor have they since,” reports Andrew Ross Sorkin. “He was a rising star.”
Earlier today Gawker somewhat ridiculously suggested that Rattner could have beaten Cosgrove at his own game by filing a libel suit and by starting a blog. Internet libel law is still hazy territory, and forget about international regulations, to begin with. Yet Gawker is missing the larger point — Rattner wasn’t fired because he broke any law. He was fired because he was bringing negative attention to his firm. Starting a blog or filing a complicated libel suit against portions of an allegation that was to some extent true would have only exacerbated the problem.
As we deleted Cosgrove’s comments, he repeatedly complained that Rattner was keeping his story off the Internet, as if the financier had nymag.com on speed dial. (He doesn’t.) Cosgrove framed his battle as one between a powerless small guy versus the unassailable establishment. It turns out this wasn’t the case: Apparently spamming a Website with comments can get someone fired.
Today, according to Cosgrove’s MySpace page, his mood is “Triumphant.”