South Beach Conspiracy Theorist Sues Google for Libel

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 that 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 made its 754th post yesterday, although there is now a message in its About section that says the authors are on a "short break." There's no contact listed for either author online.)

"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 "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 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."

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Allie Conti was a fellow at Miami New Times and a staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, where her writing won awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. She's now the senior staff writer at Vice and a contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Atlantic.