The Sad Tale of Jasmine Star and Doug Gordon

The Sad Tale of Jasmine Star and Doug Gordon


jasminestar

Update 10/12/13: Jasmine Star has posted an apology on fstoppers.

There are few photo conferences where the enthusiasm is palpable – where everyone from the doe-eyed to the veteran clamors for pearls of wisdom from an accomplished speaker roster. That’s the reality at WPPI where 13,000 wedding and portrait photographers descend upon Las Vegas in the early Spring. Unlike the run-of-the-mill photo conference, this one is filled with people looking to be inspired, and ready to carve a path in the business of photography. It is the conference of optimists and exuberance. I thoroughly enjoy it.

Jasmine Star was one of those names in bright lights would filled rooms with hundred, if not thousands of people. People counted on her anecdotes and words of wisdom to inspire their own photography. She is a rockstar in the wedding photography market – an internet famous, master marketer with good looks and an authentic demeanor that seemed perfectly suited for her audience.

But over the past few weeks, her integrity and authenticity have come into question as allegations of plagiarism in her writing and tweeting have surfaced in some pretty unambiguous ways. These revelations come on the heels of similar findings in the writings of Doug Gordon, another workshop rockstar.

With the amount of content that the two produce, it’s almost inevitable that something they say will sound similar to someone else. We all read the same blogs and industry websites, and this exposure undoubtedly affects the ideation of our thoughts and opinions over time. A few similar thoughts might be coincidental. But a slew of nearly verbatim posts is inexplicable, and it forces us to question everything. Did they really write that inspiring quote? How did they get so funny? Did Doug Gordon really license a Jason Mraz song for his website?

As the din of the allegations have grown louder, a group calling themselves “Photographers with Ethics” has started an online petition to drop both speakers from the 2014 WPPI conference. Conference director Jason Groupp has, to his credit, publicly stated that they are looking very closely at the matter and listening to all the feedback they are getting from their audience.

Power and fame are addictive. Seeing a torrent of “Likes” the moment you post an Instagram feels validating. Reading hundreds or thousands of retweets of every word you utter is like crack. And SEO algorithms actually reward content creators who yield this type of response on social media. So I can understand how it happens. I certainly don’t condone, nor do I justify the behavior, but I get it.

I also get that these photographers employ staff who ghostwrite pieces on their behalf, and perhaps there is a very logical explanation about an intern who swiped a blog entry or a tweet because their boss told them to create some content.

But when two top educators in the wedding photography field are caught in a web of plagiarism, there is an institutional problem that must be addressed. Doug apparently had a half-assed apology in July on his Facebook page that has since disappeared, and Jasmine hasn’t issued any statement whatsoever. Their behavior reflects poorly on every other photographer who is trying to carve a niche through education [disclosure: I served on a panel at WPPI 2013]. And it sucks all the good will out of the conference hall.

So let me join the chorus of critics calling for their dismissal from WPPI. No explanation or apology this late in the game will be good enough. WPPI has the power to take away Jasmine and Doug’s biggest platform while taking a stand for credibility and intellectual property. It’s the right thing to do, and the right thing for the business.

 

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There are 61 comments for this article
  1. Bobby at 11:32 am

    When your whole brand is about being you and being real and all that, you don’t get excused for stealing multiple times. The sad part is that so many aspiring shooters still idolize these narcissistic mongoloids. All photographers should shun them to send out a message that this crap will not be tolerated. By the way, I’ll gladly bet $1000 that Jasmine Star will make a dramatic humblebragging public apology, complete with plenty of references to some dream quest that God has her on.

  2. JC Ruiz at 11:34 am

    As someone who follows both Jasmine and Doug I was disappointed that they were called out for stealing content and pawning it off as their own. It is unfortunate that they thought it was appropriate to plagiarize and sure their reputation with photographers will undoubtedly take a hit but I’m sure their customers aren’t going to mind either way as long as their photos come out the way they hoped for. Sure WPPI can dismiss them, but these two photographers will still make their money either way.

  3. Mitch Wojnarowicz at 11:52 am

    I respect the difficult position Jason Groupp and the WPPI directorate are in.

    We’re all family after all. Once you’re in this business and are chopping away at making a living, you’ve earned a special place of support from almost every other snapper out there. I was welcomed as an unknown journalist into countless newsrooms solely because I was one of “us”.

    We are “the” industry. It isn’t some faceless mega-corp which you can discard by buying from someone else with a mouse-click. So you want to put crazy Uncle Bill into rehab, but you bleed for him, thinking nothing about slipping him a ten for just one more hit to ease the pain. He’s family after all.

    But life is a messy business sometimes. And someone has to pull up the big boy pants.

    I applaud PhotoShelter for taking stand.

    Jason’s blog post that WPPI is looking into this leaves the door open to all options. Having watched politics from very, very close range, this is what WPPI had to do. A sweeping condemnation because the torches have been lit and the pitchforks have been gathered would be irresponsible.

    I hope that as an industry leader, WPPI is doing heroic due diligence behind the scenes and will come to the obvious conclusion.

    I am sorry that it appears we as individuals had to petition for redress of our grievances. And otherwise stomp and shout to keep this from quietly going away with less fanfare than a soon to be indicted politician would receive from their colleagues.

    WPPI needs to step up. To take a firm position on this. To lead with authority, insight and boldness. To carry the mantle that the leader in an industry is given.

    If they don’t, then they signal that being a photographer who serves the public means you should be greedy, manipulative and unethical. And that ego and status matters more than the people who we serve and matters more than the art which drew us into this commerce to begin with.

    Knight to king 4, WPPI. Check.

  4. Sarah at 12:16 pm

    Is anyone REALLY surprised? The photography industry has become saturated with an entire segment that bank on exploiting newer and less confident photographers. Every single workshop could be titled “get rich quick like me.” Anyone who has survived as a creative professional for more than just a few years knows there is no secret or magic formula. Success only comes with hard work, long hours, and persistence. David Jay is chief snake oil salesman and Jasmine Starr has always been just one of his many tools to squeeze money out of other photographers so he does not have to actually work as a mediocre photographer. Most are just the same as him these days. Those who can do great photography – do it and stay busy at it – and know there is nothing they can teach others except you need to bust your ass, keep shooting a lot to evolve your work and craft and not get stale over time. Those who can’t do that teach b.s. workshops. The ones that drag Jesus into their sales pitch are the worst. Thou shalt not steal Jasmine!

  5. Lord Flawed at 12:25 pm

    They’re not the first nor the last. The recipe is very simple folks and it applies to everyone. DONT LET YOUR TALENT TAKE YOU, WHERE YOU’RE CHARACTER CAN’T KEEP YOU.

  6. Suzi at 12:57 pm

    I applaud you speaking out on this subject. It is sad that WPPI couldn’t stand for integrity without having to be poked and prodded into even considering it.

  7. Lisa at 1:07 pm

    These two aren’t the only ones. I’ve come across so many frauds in photography groups, it’s amazing how many people go out, by a camera, and then offer “workshops” within the next year. I’ve seen photographers charge people for information that comes out of the owners manual. Even worse, the ones who write tutorials about things they’ve only done a couple times. This market is flooded with frauds.

  8. Buzzard at 1:17 pm

    It’s also a huge problem that one of the top ten wedding photographers in the world (according to am photo) has a history of not showing up to weddings and workshops but still taking the money. Yet everyone covers for his hipster ass because he’s a ‘rockstar’ but all it does is keep people in the dark about how horrible he is.

  9. Kim at 1:23 pm

    While I agree what they did ( with the exception of Twitter, really we are scrutinizing Tweets) was wrong but if we are to go so far on this witch hunt ( we all know that this is really what this is “pitch forks and camera’s” burn em!) then we must hold ALL of the speakers to them same scrutiny and I can almost guarantee you that no one will come off shiny and squeaky clean…The industry as a whole is corrupt and full of devious deeds I see it everyday…. If you ban these two “evil do’ers” then you must have a trial for ALL speakers and thus I fear, WPPI would be no more…..

  10. Tammi Moore at 1:37 pm

    My only concern is that my hubby has a crush on Jasmine, and when he should be retouching and editing, he sits and stares at her.

  11. Adriana at 1:41 pm

    Kudo’s to you, excellent article.

    As far as J* goes, it is not only her plagiarism that is bothersome, but also the images she stole. ( http://photogzilla.blogspot.ca/2010/11/interview-jasmine-star-ywd-magazine.html )

    And if you really want a giggle, her ‘stealing makes me sad’ line showing up on her website now … well …. plagiarized. ( Scroll to the bottom of this 2011 article: http://augieshoots.com/2011/07/12/jasmine-star-concert-photographer-2/ ) To quote the original words: Don’t steal. Stealing makes Todd Owyoung sad.”

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  13. robert mariani at 1:56 pm

    Not that I support ANY photographer or videographer plagiarizing another. But one need only scan through the thousands of wedding photographers and videographers websites using unlicensed music. It happens all the time, yet those same “artists” are the first to get upset if someone uses their photos/videos without permission. A lot of hypocrisy in this business if you ask me.

  14. David at 1:57 pm

    I don’t understand why the photography industry is being so vicious with these two people about intellectual property rights when it seems the entire photographic industry is so willing to NOT care about their own intellectual property rights. Photographers constantly give their photography away for free and for credit (which of course is an unsustainable business practice). A Jasmine Star tweet, in the grand scheme of things, simply does not matter (although plenty of what these “Rock Stars” do does seem to be having a negative impact on new photographers). However, it DOES matter that an entire industry is so willing to work for free/cheap/credit. This is having an actual impact on our industry. I guess Jasmine just happens to be the scapegoat for what the industry sees as their own grief from their collective lack of self respect?

  15. Virginia Smith at 2:25 pm

    When someone accepts the mantle of industry leader than they need to lead…walk the talk. Yes there are thousands using unlicensed music but more paying for it as they are educated, as they learn how it feels when images are stolen.

    My kids/partners grew up with napster/limewire/file sharing and it’s been my job to educate them on this issue when we became a business and insist on paying for the music. They can’t imagine any other way now.

    NOTE* I belonged to Jasmine Star’s reSTARt group and left when I was called names for making one comment joking about irony to add a little levity to a fierce battle of opinions. Many got kicked out of the group.

    This morning a couple other groups I belonged to removed any posts about this issue and the website links like this one. If there can’t be any discussion, what will change? It’s sad when the first amendment gets thrown out because some don’t want to even see it discussed. It’s just so odd.

    • Allen Murabayashi Author at 2:40 pm

      I find Facebook a disingenuous way of saying anything truly important. The nature of the newsfeed tends to quickly age content and make it impossible to find, which I might surmise was her intent. She has a huge readership on her blog, and that would be a more satisfactory and appropriate forum imo.

  16. Sean Arbabi at 3:00 pm

    A bit disturbing for the photo industry, but not surprised- many photographers seems to rise up fast, and yet I’ve reviewed their work, or more so their experience, and at times I scratched my head. Now we may know two of them aren’t what they claim to be.

    Ironically, they’ve build their businesses on claiming to be unique and creative, yet most fans or photographers who buy their products, services, or attend their workshops won’t see this article and continue to support them. Great job Photoshelter (and others like http://stopstealingphotos.tumblr.com) for outing them.

    I’ve worked too hard the past 23 years building a photographic career I’m proud of. When I wrote both my books for Random House, I purposely avoiding reading photo books as to avoid the issue of any doubt of plagiarism or simply using someone else’s unique idea. If I used a quote, I credited it back to the original person.

    It’s okay to be proud you learned something from someone, and then credit that person- it doesn’t make you less unique, unless you decide to claim those words (or photos) for your own.

  17. Matthew Saville at 3:05 pm

    Really? We’re still going on about tweet plagiarism? I mean I get the other stuff, but tweets? Come on, Allen. Again, I get the Doug Gordon thing, but I’m really getting tired of everybody whining about how recycling tweets makes someone a total fraud. What’s next, should I start copyrighting my fart noises too?

  18. intaG at 3:07 pm

    Autumn, and after her apology, she banned people who disagreed with her actions from her CLRestart facebook group. Very childish and STAR like. If you made mistake, apologize and own it!

  19. Joe McDonald at 3:08 pm

    Mitch Wojnarowicz perhaps Jasmine should hire you as a ghost writer. You really have a good handle with words.

    Virginia Smith I to was booted from restart and I bet hundreds of others were removed as well, considering the number of posts that commented on Jasmine’s mistakes.

    However. Jasmine, Doug, JB and others that we may not have heard about yet, will survive.

    Sure it can be fun to rag on them but it won’t make me any money or make me a better photog. This will all blow over.

    They may have a slow period. But like any other well know business if they are smart, and I think they are, will go back to the basics

    * They will get out in public and not hide.
    As Doug is already doing by pushing out more videos. Some will be interviewed by other photogs where they spin their tale. Others will sell their “story” about how it wasn’t their fault and it is the ‘haters’ that are to blame.

    * Redirect the controversy.
    Switch from a DSLR to ILC. Thank you Trey.

    * Market to their core customers.
    Consider that the non professional / non wannab professional photographers are not aware of all this fuss. So that side of their customer base is not impacted.

    * Produce the products that they started with and have made them money all along.

    In a number of months or few years they will be out in front of the pack like before.

    In the mean time what I am doing is to continue to learn from them. Learn from their successes. Learn from their mistakes. And try to make a business of what I enjoy doing.

  20. James Pratt at 3:20 pm

    “Brian 10-11-2013
    It’s also time for Chase Jarvis and CreativeLive to step up.”

    Are you talking about Chase “I created the saying the best camera is the one you have with you” Jarvis? That saying was around long before he was even born, and he claimed to coin the term?

  21. Robert Mariani at 5:21 pm

    @ Virginia Smith

    I applaud you educating you staff about the wrongs of using unlicensed music. But this makes my point. Why should you even have to educate anyone that using an artistic piece that they didn’t pay for or receive permission use is ok.

    Growing up using Napster or the like is no excuse. Besides, how long ago was Napster even relevant ?

    Bottom line, there is NO excuse for photographers/videographers using unlicensed music. We all know that…….some out there choose to justify to themselves that it’s ok.

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  23. Michael at 6:38 pm

    Stealing photos and using them as your own is NOT okay.

    Reposting quotes or random musings from the internet is COMMONPLACE and happens EVERYDAY by MILLIONS of people. I really do not see any issue with it. We quote words from books, famous authors, speakers and politicians. We repost song lyrics in our Twitter and Facebook feeds, even amusing or inspiring quotes and random musings from friends and people we know or want to know.

    I think people need to calm down and think logically. To quote a very famous person from history:

    “Those of you without sin, cast the first stone.”

  24. William Beamish at 6:48 pm

    Autumn she didn’t post an apology to her Facebook page, she change her reSTARt group to the “Super Secret” setting and issued an apology on there, not anywhere publicly. Anyone within that group who didn’t suck up and kiss her ass was kicked from the group, I’m not talking about anyone who started being argumentative or anything, if you didn’t kiss her ass and tell her it’s all okay she kicked you from the group. Keep in mind we’re talking about hundreds of people.

    You do something wrong, you get caught, you don’t issue an apology and now she has an ebook out that claims she was being betrayed. Getting caught stealing isn’t getting betrayed, it’s setting the record straight and exposing you for the fraud you are.

    What’s the saying “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”?

  25. Applehead at 6:54 pm

    If you think Jasmin * is a person you’re wrong. Jasmin * is a brand and its foolish to think a brand operates w the same ethics as an individual. The business is about profit and j* is not regurgitating any more art than any of the rest of us. What happened to the industry that sticks together? Relax and leave her and her brand alone. This entire industry and full of regurgitated poses and blogposts, actions and anecdotes.

  26. Maria at 6:59 pm

    this is starting to feel like some kind of witch-hunt to me. bullying actually. i don’t like how this is playing out. sure – there is a line in the sand when you are dealing with other people’s humour – but it’s also a bit like a recipe. if altered there is no copyright there. is it best to come up with something truly original? yes – it is, but is it such a big deal that it needs to come to this?

    i don’t think so.

  27. Paul Edward Robison at 7:45 pm

    Applehead — sorry, but when you build your brand around your personality, you are your brand. There is no ‘corporate shield’ to hide behind. Even if you are correct that the industry is full of this, it doesn’t make it correct. Better to speak up to correct it, than to justify if because someone else also is doing it.

    Maria, if you think this is bullying: Talking about facts is not bullying. Somehow, I think we should blame the perpetrator, rather than the persons who are discussing it. It is NOT her industry. It belongs to all of us (me, for 43 years). We have the right to speak about what is happening to it (within it).

    If you think she just happened to have the same idea as someone, look at the bottom of this link, where seven of her tweets are laid out, side-by-side, with a tweet that preceded it.

    Does Twitter still have the ‘retweet’ button? If so, why not just retweet? —- unless you wanted people to think that it was your own cleverness!!!

    Stealing is steal stealing.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/102377769@N03/10215425153/in/photostream/

  28. Craig Minielly at 8:32 pm

    Also reported, but not widely known, are the very serious actions of Doug Gordon, where he intentionally, and repeatedly, took advantage of his fellow speakers by hijacking their names to sell his own goods by stealing their web traffic search results. This is referred to as black hat SEO, and while maybe not technically illegal, it is profoundly immoral and shows the true character of DG. If he treats his fellow speaker “friends” this way, then there really should be no debate on this issue, as he deserves no more consideration that what he gave to his fellow presenters when he was living off (ripping off) their names.

    Look to the update notice in the link below, and then to the bottom of that post for the list of those whose names he appropriated for his own purposes.

    http://stopstealingphotos.tumblr.com/post/55742970716/doug-gordon

  29. Brian Powell at 9:49 pm

    Why can’t this industry stop all the inbreeding and hero worshipping and get over themselves? I hope I can stay away from these conferences as long as possible — just trying to suck all your wallets dry anyway, people! Wake up.

  30. Natalie at 1:13 am

    Before you start accusing people of stealing be sure to get your facts straight. I can’t speak on the Doug Gordon case, but Jasmine did not steal anything. She simply did not properly retweet a quote. And furthermore, she did in fact release a heartfelt apology blog post.

    I find it less respectful that you write a blog post condemning people like you’ve never done any wrong. Get some perspective on real problems in this world and stop hateful crap no different than a gossip rag.

  31. Cody Paige at 1:41 am

    I’ve read Jasmine Star’s apologizes so she has posted two now. One for the blogs and one for the tweets. Not saying she’s off the hook, but she did post apologize.

  32. Matthew Saville at 5:55 am

    I’m just tired of the self-righteous crucifictions. It’s people’s own faults if they idolize someone so strongly that they’re devastated to find out some harmless “content” was unoriginal.

    This is the evil side effect of the social media world we have become so addicted to. It is a bubble that was bound to burst. In my opinion what Jasmine did was harmless and it is up to everyone else to get over it if they put her up on such a pedestal. All Doug Gordon is guilty of is mainly just not supervising his staff, and possibly also creating a work environment in which his staff feels it’s okay to cheat and not care about getting permission to use content.

    Well, I’ve got news for you, photo industry. This is the name of the game in social media now, stuff like this happens a thousand times a day an no amount of uproar is going to cure society of its far deeper issues with celebrity. (And integrity)

  33. Chris at 12:04 pm

    While I’m not going to argue any of the other points made simply because I do not have the time or interest to thoroughly research them, I find it interesting that you *CAN* legally license that Jason Mraz song (and MANY other top tunes) for background use on a commercial photographer website for only $30 from http://www.songfreedom.com, as indicated (now at least) on Doug’s website. https://www.songfreedom.com/FAQs.aspx

    So just because we hear a very popular tune on a website, and *think* it must be stolen, perhaps it isn’t.

    Just to be clear of source, I do NOT condone stealing, plagiarism, license abuse or copyright infringement.

  34. richard leggarr at 2:35 pm

    If this was anyone else you would crucify her. Its just that she has hordes of talenless followers who care more about perception than reality.

  35. Savanah Loftus at 2:40 pm

    I’m a little heart broken, Jasmine has been an inspiration for years now. Very disappointing, plagerism is a serious, and very telling of their true characters – I couldn’t feel okay having any sort of acknowledgement, likes, comments or what have you for someone else’s images or words not sourced.

  36. John at 12:18 am

    Until recently I thought Jasmine Star was someone from the adult industry, that shows how meaningless modern performers are. I mean, it’s not like we are talking real photographers here, right?

    A pretty face and a lucky name coincidentally picking up a digital camera rising to fame because of her god gifted talent?

    Nah, more like cleverly exploited social media talking a lot and saying so little.

  37. Martin Price at 4:51 am

    With plagiarism and image theft so rife in this industry, I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise when some of those at a the top get caught doing it too. It is all a bit disappointing though.

    Hopefully this saga will make others think of the consequences before doing the same.

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  39. Motti at 12:06 am

    Sorry for just promoting others opinion here but I am afraid I am not so good as expressing myself as some here so here is another one that made me say:’Yes! That’s it! You took the words out of my mouth.”

    @Brian Powell
    “Why can’t this industry stop all the inbreeding and hero worshiping and get over themselves? I hope I can stay away from these conferences as long as possible — just trying to suck all your wallets dry anyway, people! Wake up.”

    Two words that stuck out for me were ‘inbreeding’ and ‘worshiping’. Inbreeding because I always found it so pathetic that all those “best in the world photographers” or “ward winning this and that” are being nominated and selected by the same people that then are being winning awards thanks to the former voting for them. How pathetic is that. Inbreeding indeed.

    And then thanks to even more pathetic worshiping all of those rock-stars flood the Internet with tutorials, workshops, “one of a kind presets”, templates, actions and God know what else lurking for the next sucker to dish out he money because she thinks it’s what will make her rich and successful.

  40. Cecns2 at 1:57 pm

    I think this being blown way out of proportion. It is unfortunate that WPPI attendees won’t get to benefit from both of them. They both have a lot to offer.

  41. Noe Chaparro at 12:09 am

    You guys are mad at Jasmine because she copied and pasted twitter feeds? She subsequently was removed from wppi? These are twitter feeds, not works of art, not photography, not music, or software being pirated. She should have acknowledged here mistake immediately and apologized but thats it! You people who say I’m “disappointed”, have got to be kidding me. This is a RELATIVELY small infraction of real world plagiarism. Get off your high horse, forgive and move on. Jasmine in no way deserved to be punished by a “tarnished” reputation.

  42. Chance Mar at 10:06 am

    Noe Chaparro dude did you even read or click on any of the links, it wasn’t only twitter quotes. Click on the links, she completely ripped off blog post, then when caught, tried to edit the post and reword them, or just remove the original post. So no its not just twitter. I really enjoyed Jasmine Star and when I spoke with her she came off as genuine and extremely friendly and down to earth but what she did was just wrong on all levels, Its one thing to not give credit to someone for a saying on twitter once or twice but completely stealing someone one elses writing material is not only lame but its WRONG!. Its not like it was done once or twice.

  43. Luis Roldan at 5:19 am

    Wasn’t she in law school? I’m pretty sure if you spent any time in college – let alone law school – that you learn quickly how plagiarism works. She knew what she was doing – she admitted it; like a cop who shoplifts and apologizes when he gets caught.

    I think the more interesting topic here should be the varying levels of respect for intellectual property. Telling a joke you heard from a comedy show and not mentioning the comedian, summarizing a news article to your friends and not mentioning the newspaper, or using a line from a poem/song/book/movie to emphasize your tweet without mentioning the title are all forms of intellectual property theft.

    Somehow though these are “accepted” forms of theft or at the least “too petty” to consider. That cop who shoplifted also picked up shoplifters daily – so should we offer our respect to him and not let his acts be known?

    If you someone cheating on a test next to you – would you keep up the integrity of the academic institution and denounce them? Or would you shrug and perpetuate the desire to cheat?

    I don’t think this is “hating”. I think it’s a form of journalism – or at least opinionated journalism. To say that this content serves no purpose is to say that you wouldn’t mind someone taking your own work (however meaningless you think it to be) and pass it off as their own.

  44. Amy lane at 2:47 am

    I agree Chance, what she did was wrong. I am disappointed that she has become so attached to this persona she has created that she is no longer the transparent, honest humble girl starting out in photography we fell in love with. Now she claims to be a teacher and it’s all ego.

  45. Dee at 1:09 pm

    Gosh, is this what it’s come to?!?!? This totally re affirms why i left the scene, after digital replaced film. with that came all the social media crap, just too much drama, it’s sickening that so many people go along with it all, just to book a shoot. I’ll do a thousand free shoots and love every second of it, before I’ll join this messed up cut throat business community again.

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