Once upon a time, in an enchanted grove in the faraway land of Big Sur, California...
A Silicon Valley tech mogul and his fiancée were married under a canopy of majestic, old redwood trees, surrounded by friends and a blanket of ocean-scented air. And they lived happily ever after...or tried to, anyway. Three weeks after the $4.5 million June 1st "eco-terrorist extravaganza" wedding that opened the media floodgates, Parker has penned a 9,500 word screed titled "Weddings Used To Be Sacred And Other Lessons About Internet Journalism." In the essay, which appeared on TechCrunch, Parker sets forth a straight record of facts about what went so wrong.
Interspersed between his factual documentation, Parker also condemns an entire industry for becoming victims to baseless journalism, void of basic fact-checking or interviewing (Co.Labs editor Chris Dannen has published a response letter to Parker here).
Parker starts, where most stories do, at the beginning:
"We lay on the flower-strewn pathway, looking up at the redwood canopy above. The fog rolling in from the ocean enveloped us, imbuing the moment with a feeling of supernatural bliss."
No sooner had the newlyweds exchanged "I dos" before they awoke the next morning to an unexpected turn of events: Angry, vitriolic messages from all the Internet land were fast filtering in via email and Facebook, in response to dozens of media stories criticizing the astronomical waste and irreparable damage caused by the wedding.
"The media was portraying me as a crass, insensitive, eco-trashing billionaire, cartoonishly driving a gigantic hell-razing bulldozer, gleefully plowing down what remained of 'Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest.'"
Among the offenses the pair were accused of committing in their quest for the ultimate fantasy wedding: trashing a campground; threatening a (not actually) endangered species of steelhead trout; trampling a redwood grove to the point of irreversible damage.
"These reactions were so extreme, so maniacal, so deeply drenched in expletives, they seemed wasted on us; this was the sort of angry invective normally reserved for genocidal dictators."
What was more egregious, Parker argues, was that these reactions were based on nothing more than the results of a gaggle of online media scrum (ourselves included, at one point) chewing and regurgitating their own fabrications in story after story, each more exaggerated than the next. ("Truth has a funny way of getting in the way of a great story," he explains.)
"In the fast-and-loose world of 'blogging for dollars,' it probably feels like a waste of time to do original reporting when writing snarky stories with a paucity of facts is a more efficient way to generate traffic. Regardless, it was astonishing to see this volume of inaccurate, derivative stories written without any concern for fact checking or sourcing."
But, in the words of the author, "nothing is sacred on the Internet, not even a wedding"—and so before Parker could take two steps back from his screen after hitting "Publish" on his TechCrunch post, a band of trolls quickly crawled out of the woodwork to attack his opus.
This is basically the "Sean Parker's Wedding" of blog posts http://t.co/dLEIqpJcYZ— Adrian Chen (@AdrianChen) June 27, 2013
Sean Parker's story shows that on the internet, you are better off eloping http://t.co/CiGVd9Gbph— Ross Mayfield (@Ross) June 27, 2013
Dear Sean Parker - if you have to include 'summary points' at the end of your article, perhaps it's a bit too long http://t.co/8WIpdXo9lo— Bryn Elise Sandberg (@brynsandberg) June 27, 2013
sean parker furiously writing a techcrunch post in bob benson shorts— Jordan Valinsky (@jordan327) June 27, 2013
I just tried to instapaper this sean parker screed and my computer restarted— Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle) June 27, 2013
In Parker's words, this is not the first time his essence has been villified and mythologized—the 2010 film The Social Network is a testament to this, he says. But no matter:
"...like the redwood trees we were married under, we’ve survived worse insults. There is no point pouting about what happened; we’re better off making the best of a bad situation."
...and so Sean, Alexandra, and the myth of "the morally reprehensible 'brogrammer' douchebag" rode off into the distance—by "douche canoe" or "jackwagon," he was called both in the aftermath—and attempted to live happily ever after, basking, or perhaps toiling, under the dull glow of the computer screen from which you're reading this very story.