Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Seattle Media Machine and "Attention Whore" Accusations

Phoenix Jones: Riding the crest of a media wave

Heroes in the Night is back from holiday break and I hope everyone had a decent one. Over the last couple weeks, there has been a lot of buzz in Seattle about Phoenix Jones and his group, the Rain City Superhero Movement.

Reports chronicle how he stopped a would be car jacker (TPM Muckracker picked up the story HERE and linked to the interview I did with Phoenix Jones HERE, which has led to a huge increase in traffic and some sort of debate in the comments section)- his team member Red Dragon confronted a Seattle bus pervert (story HERE) and most recently a confrontation which led to Phoenix Jones suffering from a broken nose (story HERE). Phoenix Jones, Red Dragon, and Buster Doe even made a recent appearance on Good Morning America, and the car jacker story got picked up on CNN.

Yes, Seattle is crazy for Mr. Jones and company, but not all the media has been positive. Heraldnet.com suggests that "Fake hero likely fake, officials say" in an article HERE.

And frustrated blogger Paul Constant is sick of hearing about it. He posted an entry on the Seattle Stranger's "Slog" titled "Please Stop Writing About Real Life Superheroes." In the write up (HERE)addressed "Dear Bloggers" he says:

I'm done writing about them, and you should be, too. Here's why:

Like 9/11 Truthers they're attention whores who will stop at nothing to get a couple inches of print, or a few seconds of air time. Every time I write about RLSs, I get tons of e-mails from other RLSs playing up inter-hero squabbles like penny-ante pro wrestlers, begging for me to write the "real story," which happens to be their story.

And again:
They're doing this for the attention. What they really want is to be adored, the way people adore comic book superheroes. But if they can't be adored, they'll take a snarky, condescending glance from the media, too.

"attention seeking," third reference:
And then after the attention fades, they try to figure out how to grab the spotlight again

I do understand Mr. Constant's frustration. There have been a lot of sloppy write ups over the last couple weeks about Phoenix Jones. Some of these reports are giving information that hasn't been verified. Reporting on something without evidence is lazy journalism that will bite you in the ass and/or make you look like a sucker.

However, making a blanket statement about RLSH all being "attention whores" is not accurate either. Why? Because it only applies to the ones who are actually attention whores. There is at least some percentage who have not sought out media attention and have even turned down media requests, or have been very selective on media. For instance, after I wrote an article for the New York Press about the New York Initiative, there was a bombardment of media requests- local news, reality shows, possible documentaries, German public radio- all of which were rejected by the NYI.

I routinely get e-mails from media outlets around the country asking if I know any local RLSH in their area. I always pass the info on. A Toronto news outlet recently asked me to hook them up, but the Toronto RLSH weren't interested. An Idaho news source was looking for locals, but the Idaho RLSH weren't interested. I've encountered a couple RLSH who weren't even interested in talking to yours truly! There are many RLSH that are only known to me via forums or from having met and not through media exposure.

Other RLSH have accepted media requests, but have not sought it out.

Point: A group of people can not be dismissed as "attention whores" if some percentage of the group does not seek attention or actively denies media requests.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry, meant to edit the above.

    No not all RLSH are media whores.
    But it's easy to see why some people are getting frustrated and think so. Hell, we've got people who have admitted they don't go anywhere, on a patrol or otherwise, without a camera being present. Those are the media whores.
    But you've also got real-deal guys in the trenches: Urban Avenger and Mr. Extreme, Dark Wolf and Lunar Veil, Silver Sentinel, and many others (Edit: special note to include Superhero and the others on Team Justice who do film their handouts, but do man patrols without the camera) who don't feel it is necessary to film every damn thing, or in some cases nothing at all. They're the ones who matter. They're the ones who make a real difference in people's lives. They are not media whores.

  3. Tea this was an excellent article/write up because hopefully it will dispel one of the most damaging myths that plague the RLSH. I've done one interview and it was only when asked by Peter Tangen and DC Guardian and even then I was very reluctant to do so. I made sure that the people that were going to do it were not in it to be exploitive or treat the RLSH/costumed activist as a slap stick joke. Personal glory should NEVER be more important to helping people...period.

  4. The special venom reserved for criticizing media whoring by some people in the community reminds me of closeted homosexuals making gay jokes.

    There are some good and incredibly focused people out there. And there are some people who are just playing for the cameras. If Phoenix Jones is that, then he's far from alone.

  5. I personally feel Phoenix Jones is this year's incarnation of Shadowhare. They both make tons of claims and yet have next to zero evidence, seem to THRIVE off of attention given by the media, and have more accusations of faking their "heroics" from other outside sources AND their peers than Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair combined. (FLAIR HOGAN, WOOOOOO-BROTHERRR!!) This is a candle that'll burn itself out before Summer, unless he accepts his "offer" for a reality show on Discovery, that is. I can hear Dark Guardian screaming already.

    Also: Urban Avenger and Mr. Xtreme AREN'T attention whores? You mean the guys that showed up to a candle-light vigil in full costume..? Come on, man.


  6. A good well researched and balanced post. Thank you

  7. Fame is a major motivator for a significant percentage of RLSH. So long as others are helped I can't hate on them for that. My only bone of contention is if it's proven that a particular RLSH is only active for PR purposes, that's when I think fault can be laid at his proverbial feet. I do this because it's a lifelong dream come true- period.

  8. Malvado, as for Mr. Extreme and UA, being naive enough to show up in their gear does not make them attention whores: it just shows an incident of poor judgement.If they were after attention they would have posted footage of themselves at that vigil all over they place.
    They didn't.
    UA conceded that it was stupid and they have toned it down. If anything, I think they've shot less patrol film after that incident and concentrated more on what they should be doing.

  9. Capt Black brings up good points.
    As long as they're actually helping people,well then at least they're doing some good, as distasteful as their attention mongering may be.
    If they are found to be doing nothing positive but self promoting, they they deserve every ounce of censuring and ridicule comint their way.

  10. As always, Captain Black adds a dose of wisdom. If a person does achieve some semblance of fame then use that fame to promote good, to motivate people to action, to stand up and be a positive force in the world. If you get fame and just use it for yourself and personal gain only then it's nothing more than useless arrogance.

  11. i been lookin for phoenix, ser im gonna be a up and coming superhero from what i see you guys are a inspiration but you need training you guys are sloppy and need structure cause mabye one day you might need to actually save the world. and you dont have the skills to do it if you fail i will take your place. but for now heres a guide. 1. must learn to fight 2 styles. 2.your suit has to take damage from guns and bats and other 3.must exercize gives you durability. 4.be shure that you know and are prepared for almost anything. now you will get hurt you will be in some tight situations but if you listen 2 me you will be better than any superhero out there. i will find you and i will test you from one superhero to another dont fail me.

  12. my name is nitro gin i hope you responde i would like to talk 2 you i have a couple of plans sorry to be straight forward but you the first superhero i ever seen on tv. your doing what i was gonna do a long time ago. i will find you or you will find me either way its gonna happen gain these skills that i put up or you will fail. dont let me down. cause my friend i have already gain these skills i heard you got your nose broke. you your not living up 2 the name, but i am still a fan i got faith in you. who knows instead of working alone mabye a team will could work. nitro gin out

  13. None of that resembles English, anonymous person.

  14. LoL.

    Guideline 1)
    "must learn to fight 2 styles."


    Guideline 2)
    "your suit has to take damage from guns and bats and other"

    --First of all, you say that an RLSH's gear/suit "has to take damage" from guns and bats. Do you mean that they have to be resistant to guns and bats, or are you really wanting everyone to be sure that they are vulnerable enough to be shot and killed? Secondly, BATS?! Do you mean blunt objects (i.e., a baseball bat) or do you mean the flying mammals? When I read this, I think that you mean vampire bats.

    Guideline 3)
    "must exercize gives you durability."

    --I think that you are really onto something here. Brilliant! You should get a grant, and run a study to see if exercise really does increase ones durability, speed, strength, etc. If it ends up being true, it will be in the same league as Watson & Crick's discovery of deoxyribonucleic acid. Hell, you may even win the Nobel Prize for random shite that even a two year old knows.

    Guideline 4)
    "be shure that you know and are prepared for almost anything"


    Here's my own: Guideline 5) Learn proper English and grammar.

    Who the hell are you? First you say "...you the first superhero i ever seen on tv. your doing what i was gonna do a long time ago," and "ser im gonna be a up and coming superhero from what i see you guys are a inspiration;" yet, you give a guide pertaining to how to be an RLSH. Are you kidding? So, you have never done anything, yet you are telling people what to do?

    By saying, "...cause mabye one day you might need to actually save the world," this makes me think that you are an obese twelve year old comic-book geek sucking upon his mum's, for lack of a better word, "bitty". An RLSH is going to "save" the world?" Do you have an example of how this would happen, that doesn't have to do with a super villain or an alien invasion?

    I must say that my favourite part of your poor attempt at English was, "dont fail me." Oh, sir, yes sir! Again, who are you?

    Based off of your syntax and writing style, I think that when you read, "Again, who are you," you will literally think that I am asking you for your name, which I am not. By who are you, I mean, by what authority do you have to present such a statement?)

  15. Ahh, good to see that hatred is still the great uniting factor of men.

  16. " why did he publicly turn down an offer from Discovery Channel to put together a reality tv show?"

    They got called for the reality show DURING another interview? And this message wasn't left on their voicemail but RUSHED to this other speaking engagement to be presented in front of reporters?

    Yeah, sounds legit.

  17. I don't even know who this guy is, but I already HATE him for his socks. Either tuck'em in or start wearing black ones because there is ZERO excuse for that!


  18. What, is that the original Calamity back? (the moon shape headed one?) If so, welcome back.

    Nitro Gin, I accept your challenges.

  19. Wow. I didn't even realized how much useless press we've turned down until you just wrote that.

    Some of it's useful, but mostly it's just a bunch of guys with agendas to make their living. not evil, just misguided.

    Nitro Gin, maybe you should just stop talking.

    The NYI is going to take this to the next level. Watch and see. So many things are in the works, and you just can't kill the idea. So try as you might, your words just don't mean a thing when all they do is tear things down.

    Insecurities are obvious in this kind of speech. Maybe buy a cat or something to love you.

  20. "Not evil, just misguided."
    For sure. A lot of these media types are just doing their jobs, and of course they're interested in a guy running around in a superhero suit.

    I got involved in all this after reading the ML article in Rolling Stone, and my first reaction was "got to find a local angle for a magazine piece." The only thing that separates me from a lot of these guys is that the story fascinated me beyond that.

    I heard about the newly expanded NYI roster. It sounds pretty epic.

  21. @ Anonymous (the one gramatically kickboxing with what appears to be an eight-year-old)

    I'd just like to point out a couple of incongruous quotes here.
    Quote number one: "Here's my own: Guideline 5) Learn proper English and grammar."
    Quote number two: "*clairification*"

    Oops. Muphry's Law strikes again (that is, something to the effect of -- when criticizing someone else's grammar, you will invariably make a grammatical mistake yourself).

    Also, you spelled "favourite" with a "u" and enclosed a period within quotation marks in the selfsame sentence, which means you're:

    A. A British-English speaker, and incorrect.
    B. An American-English speaker, and incorrect.
    C. Pretentious.

    Which is it?

    @Tea and the rest

    I submit that everyone, excluding genuine misanthropes and sociopaths (but especially self-proclaimed ones), is an "attention whore" to some extent. We all require some degree of not-necessarily-human attention and external validation in order to resolve some of the cognitive dissonance that comes from being ultimately alone and unknowable.

    To me, publicly decrying someone's "attention whoring" seems tantamount to an admission of jealousy. For example, spilling vitriol about the media relationship enjoyed by others in the comments section of a popular blog is, in effect, an act of garnering some of that attention for yourself, even if it happens to be negative attention (which some people -- and bad dogs -- thrive on just as easily). Notice that the bigger the audience (such as in the case of these upswings in readership and commenting whenever Phoenix Jones is mentioned), the uglier the already-ugly become.

    And I'm decrying those decrying the attention whores, which makes me a tertiary-parasitic attention whore. Cheers.


  22. Saf,

    Thanks for commenting! I agree everyone is an "attention whore" to one degree or another. Some work it 24/7, constantly needing attention to validate themselves. Others use it sparingly- say to promote their art opening or something.

    I work two nights a week as a doorman/ barback and it is pretty much a parade of attention whores from 8PM- bar close.

    As Calamity (who didn't answer if he had returned) posted on this blog once- "vanity is a weakness we all share."


  23. @ Saf:

    Your run of the mill attention whore knows full well what they are. They know that it's a selfish ego-wank and they're okay with that.

    RLSH shove their attention whoring down your throat and tell you it's for the -public good-. Some will even tell you that if you criticize them, you're attacking the public that they purportedly serve.

    Spandex: the ultimate safeguard against logic.

  24. @Tea

    I've been a bartender for six years (pretty much the bar mascot at this point). I completely agree with you.

    @Agent Beryllium

    I do beg to differ on one point -- that the run-of-the-mill attention whore is self-aware. I think it's actually quite a rare attention whore who is acutely aware of what they are and what they're doing. To support this argument, I have only the six years' experience I referred to above.

    As for the RLSH behavior, I'm not qualified to speculate -- sounds a lot like any given politician, though.


  25. Yes, the two opposing viewpoints I've heard over and over and over:

    CON: 1. RLSHs seek attention for things everyday people do for no publicity- homeless outreach, charity events, community safety walks, to draw attention to causes (the environment, etc.)Common argument- "my mom (or aunt/brother/friend, etc.) does this same stuff and doesn't ask for attention or thanks."


    PRO: 2. RLSHs use their colorful personas to show people that everyday people can make a difference, that they are ordinary people tired of apathetic attitudes, that an anonymous group of unsolicited people are out there trying to help out, independently and on their own terms.
    Common argument: "Mr. X got out there, people were glad to see him and told him they would totally support him raising funds for charity X."

  26. @Tea

    Honestly, both sides of that argument sound pretty weak to me. I keep expecting an explanation of how #1, the "Con," is doing anyone harm or a disservice, but the explanation never comes. For obvious reasons, you can't exactly argue that they're taking recognition away from the everyday people who purportedly don't want/seek recognition. Ad hominem attacks are for distracting people from bad logic and/or pure opinion. If their attention-seeking behavior grates on your nerves, but you can't qualify that feeling with a rational argument against it -- that's fine, everyone has unqualified opinions (mind you, unqualified doesn't necessarily mean misplaced or wrong)... but you'd be a fool to expect that to hold any sway in rational discourse.

    The "Pro" argument seems just as gauzy. Saying that RLSHs are using the media attention to promote and encourage active citizenship and a sense of community -- well, it paints a pretty picture, but it's ultimately an unproven theory. They could just as easily be doing it for the personal warm fuzzies or, as their detractors say, the attention. There's no way of verifying their motives except to ask them, and self-reporting is proven useless when personal bias and self-image are factors (it's pretty much the equivolent of asking people to self-report on how often they masturbate). And, regardless of their motives, there exists no conclusive evidence (yet) that their public shows of community service have actually contributed toward an increase in public service amongst the broader scope of ordinary, mild-mannered citizens. Their actions could, for all we know, be having an opposite effect ("Well, the RLSHs are out patrolling/standing up for people/feeding the homeless... saves me the trouble." -- sounds like a harsh stroke, but wouldn't be altogether surprising, given the history of urban-anonymous human behavior).

    Until a semiotician publishes a peer-reviewed study on how people actually interpret RLSHs in terms of symbolics, or statistics exist to support a causal link between RLSH activity and increased public service (I'm using public service as a measuring stick because morality is subjective and unquantifiable), any argument for or against media-seeking behavior by RLSHs is just meaningless fluff, and while an entertaining pastime, should be treated as such.

    That's my take. Over-thought? Overwrought? Overboard?


  27. @Saf

    That last comment, all three parts of it, was, by far, the best assessment I have ever seen on the whole visibility issue in regards to the RLSH community.

    Personally, I hold to the belief that the costumes and the gimmicks do nothing (or near to nothing) to inspire people that are not already inspired, so to speak. I think that the superhero persona is for the wearer, not the onlooker. It's a focus for those of us involved, and a way of inspiring ourselves when we feel overwhelmed with the apathy of the 'mundane'. If I want to inspire people, I use 'me', because that is someone that people can relate to. I think it's harder for the 'person of the street' to relate to a costumed hero. The costume might get more attention, but I don't think that's what changes things on a deeper level.

    I would, however, love to see a study like the one proposed; a real, scientific study into how people are actually influenced by the existence of RLSH, good and bad.

  28. I've played with the idea that costumed "inspirational" RLSHs are trying to use lessons learned with Milgram's Obidence to Authority Experiment.

    If a doctor in a clean crisp white coat can get a people to deliver lethal shocks to a test patient... then obviously a person dressed as a superhero can get the public to have regular breast exams?

    Of course, that's just my brain trying to come up with legitimate excuses for Superhero Cosplay, because the excuse "I wear this to inspire the public" is so full of hot air that I have a hard time believing that anyone can say it with a straight face.

  29. Rooster- brings up a good point about the wearer being the benefactor sometimes. One of these guys gave a good, no BS story of why he dresses like a superhero and patrols- he is recovering from alcohol/ drug addiction, so to keep himself busy he walks around almost every night, using a series of cafes and businesses as check points. More power to him.

    Saf- How about over-awesome? Although I'm not properly educated and trained to do a scientific study, it would be possible to conduct a large scale public opinion poll and study the results. The focus would be on whether people found the RLSH story to be inspirational or motivating.

    It would require some well thought out questions, to establish bias, and should be conducted in several different cities to different peer groups. That way we could not only see overall approval but might find if the idea is more acceptable to people on the west coast vs east coast, north vs south, college kids vs blue collar workers, etc.

    It would take some effort organizing, but could be done. And it would be fun and interesting.

    What do people think of this idea?

  30. I'd be willing to hit the pavement to gather opinions.

  31. Good. I think it will happen. I'll let you and everyone else interested know how it shakes down.

  32. @Rooster

    I can agree that the costume itself probably provides no real inspiration to those who look upon it. However, I do think there is a potential for a deeper level of meaning to be experienced. It's entirely possible that I'm just being romantic, but I think that for some (RLSHs and RLSH-aware citizens), the costumed hero can represent something more unto a Gestalt entity. As you intimated, the costume may serve as a reminder to the wearer of the values they've chosen to uphold... the human inside the costume is irrevocably mortal, of course -- complete with all of the weaknesses, fallibility, and...well... humanity entailed with that. The costumed hero as a social element, however, can be construed as an eidolon of those values. I think the fact that some people are willing to sacrifice a part of their humanity in order to uphold an immortal ideal is what has the potential to inspire people.

    Whether many people share this viewpoint is currently unknowable (possibly for this hypothetical survey to delineate). Conversely, the average citizen might observe an RLSH and only see an eccentric in a funny suit, or more darkly, a dangerous zealot and vigilante.

    @Agent Beryllium

    The Milgram experiment would be a choice example of the type of dubious human behavior I briefly referred to earlier. For that to work, though, there would have to be a general consensus that RLSHs are authority figures, which I don't think there is. Objectively, anyway, if a guy in day-glo spandex came bounding up to me on the street and started talking about breast exams... well... that's the reason I wear knives (yes, plural) to work.


    Surveys are bugger-all for specifics, but in order to get a general idea -- I think it's a great idea that deserves exploring further. I'd be willing to help with it.


  33. @ Girl with Goggles

    I wonder if anyone would continue to listen to and follow your point of view sans your chosen persona

    I tend to doubt it.

  34. @Anonymous (Above)

    I'm pretty sure the point-of-view is part of the persona, which makes your whole statement kind of nonsensical. Kind of like wondering if cats would eat fish if fish were only an intangible product of the cats' collective imagination.

    That's my impression, anyway. I wouldn't expect her to confirm or deny anything... that would be ruining all the fun.


  35. Not sure where you thought you were going with that one, Saf.

    I'm saying... quite obviously... that without her persona, no one would really give two solid squats about her continued opinion.

    Thus proving the worth of the persona as a means to calling attention to a worthy cause.

    And yeah, I'm saying it with a straight face because I've seen it at work. It's very effective.

  36. And I'm saying... quite obviously... that this "opinion" that you're perceiving is most likely totally affected as part of the persona. Without the persona, there is no opinion -- or, at least, not the same one that you're commenting on.

    It's a gag. An act. For amusement. Sheesh.

  37. I'd also say that it's a pathetic attempt to get a fictional persona to break character.


    Put on a face first, Anon, before you go demanding that others doff theirs.

  38. Ah, yes, because putting up a picture and a name would make my point so much less true.

    Don't think so. Weak. Very weak.

    What really sucks is that while there are shitty things going on out there, and these "geeks" are actually doing something (with or without some silly persona) you choose to do this.

    Not an insult. It just sucks.

  39. Grammatical composure, but apparent lack of reading comprehension (or just very selective responses), unprovoked cagey (and condescending) demeanor, assumed familiarity with people and principles involved... I sense a weak troll that has strayed from the herd.

  40. Whatever you say, bright eyes.

    I'm not going to get into an online pissing contest here. Straight up, you're misinformed. I've seen things first hand, you haven't.

    And yeah, I know these people. I don't post who I am here because then THAT would become an issue, when it really isn't.

    It's the message. Take it or leave it, makes no real difference to me. When all comes down, you'll be the one talking and others will be the ones doing.

  41. And there you have it, folks: The confession.

  42. Also, I've never been called "Bright Eyes" before.

    ...probably because my eyes are so effing dark bistre that they're pretty commonly mistaken for black. I mean, my comments are prefaced by an egregious camwhore picture of me staring straight up into the lens.

    ...unless you were trying to be ironic, in which case you'd be reversely implying that dark eyes are somehow remarkable. I dunno, maybe it's one of those sardonic hypocorisms (as in, "I've got news for you, cupcake/princess/et cetera...") that you call everyone, just to be condescending.

    Since this guy apparently knows everyone here personally, does anyone know of a disenfranchised RLSH/groupie who has trouble understanding self-referential humor and is given to calling people "Bright Eyes" just for funsies?

  43. Wow lady. Get a life.

  44. Mine usually just get called 'freaky'.

    (But we should stop commenting so Anonymous can go back to his glamorous life wining and dining supermodels using the fantastic proceeds from his wildly successful indie film company that also rescues baby pandas from Pakistani drug smugglers on the side. We should feel guilty for MAKING him comment here! Think of the pandas!!!)

  45. ( Shhh, Beryllium -- I'm stringing him along so I can delete all of my posts and make him look like a schizophrenic jackass. )