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One of the world's foremost conspiracy theorists doesn't want people to get the wrong impression when they Google his name. "Mind Control: The Ultimate Terror"? Fine. "New (Reptilian) World Order"? Hey, he wrote that article. But calling him an "American loon"? That's cause for a libel suit, according to Uri Dowbenko.
The abstract artist and renegade author traveled widely before settling in Florida. He decided to make South Beach his home a couple of years ago after attending Art Basel. Soon after relocating, the San Francisco Art Institute grad had pieces featured in Miami Beach's Bridge Art Fair and Miami's Mosa Gallery. But the 61-year-old dissident says his success halted in November 2010 thanks to a cheeky blog run anonymously by "chaospet" and "G.D."
As of October 1, Dowbenko is suing Google in district court for a blog called Encyclopedia of American Loons. He is seeking $1 million in damages, claiming the entry has hurt his ability to book gallery shows for the paintings, drawings, and lithographs he calls "Metaphysical Art 2.0."
The website Dowbenko described to Riptide as "a bitch slap in the face" features him as its 111th entry. Therein he is referred to as a "batshit insane tinfoilhatter, who is lacking any capacity to rationally evaluate evidence." (The blog has more than 750 posts but is on hiatus right now. There's no contact info listed for either author.)
"I recently had an epiphany that this is why I'm not getting a response from galleries," says the man behind Conspiracy Planet, Conspiracy Digest, and SecretSocieties.net. "If I've been branded as a loon, why would they want anything to do with me?"
The Loons page — which is published by the Google-owned Blogger platform — does not show up prominently in results from other search engines. Dowbenko thinks that Google is manipulating the system and that he's being punished for his independent thinking.
But hasn't Dowbenko heard of the Streisand effect? Wouldn't it be better to let sleeping internet dogs lie?
"Bringing attention to it is all I can do at this point," he says of the site. "I'm dead in the water until I can deal with this."