Here's Everything You Need to Know About the Whole Drinking Ticket Debacle

This is the generation of social media. We use memes and jokes to blow off steam, bond with others, and in many situations, seriously critique public figures or situations. Many of us are guilty of creating a meme making fun of Donald Trump, or retweeting a joke about a public figure, but almost none of us have expected to get in trouble because of it.

Regan Freeman, a USC senior, studying law, is one of the few whose jokes backfired. Regan runs the semi-popular Twitter account @FrenchTicket, which is a parody of a local news outlet, Drinking Ticket. Drinking Ticket has been a fixture of USC party life for years, tweeting out Five Points news, warning students when SLED is out, and according to Regan, enabling underage drinking.

To completely understand the whole debacle, you have to go back to the very beginning when Alex Waelde, a UofSC alum, created Drinking Ticket in 2012. Drinking Ticket quickly built a Twitter following, and at latest count, is at 76k. The Drinking Ticket account followed Regan’s personal Twitter in 2014, and since then, Regan has been a critic of the way Drinking Ticket handles information.

Drinking Ticket presents itself as a media authority on all things Five Points and USC, but Regan has doubts about that. For one thing, he says, DT tends to slap a “Breaking” title on news that aired on other outlets hours before. In addition, DT doesn’t verify its content, often getting it wrong. For Regan, the last straw came when Drinking Ticket tweeted that classes had been cancelled for the hurricane before USC had ever said anything official.

Thus, French Drinking Ticket was born. Regan pulled the idea from the parody account, French Elon Musk, which made fun of the tycoon by slapping baguettes and “honhonhons” on tweets that Elon Musk might have tweeted in another timeline before getting blocked and removed from Twitter. When asked if Regan saw Waelde as Elon Musk in this situation, he laughed. “The only thing Musk and Waelde have in common,” Regan said, “is that they’re both bizarre and hypocritical.”

Then came the storm. First, Waelde started asking around for Regan’s number, even texting people he knew with legal threats, including possible expulsion from USC. In one text to one of Regan’s friends, he even claimed that he had hired a private investigator and knew Regan’s address and parents’ names. Finally, Regan reached out to Waelde to tell him he wouldn’t be ceasing his parody account, and got these texts in response:

But if Waelde was hoping for Regan to just roll over and surrender, he chose the wrong law student to mess with. Regan’s knowledge in constitutional and media law pushed him to reach out to five different attorneys, all of whom told him that Waelde was considered a “limited public figure”, which means that he puts himself out there enough to be made fun of legally. Finally, after a huge Twitter storm and a massive PR disaster for Drinking Ticket’s brand, DT finally dropped the suit.

French Drinking Ticket’s tweets are a way for Regan to not only criticize Drinking Ticket’s “news”, but Alex Waelde’s influence on a college Regan believes he should have left long ago when he graduated in 2013. “Waelde wields his power like a cudgel adjacent to university spaces,” Regan said, and he wants that to change. According to Regan, Drinking Ticket plays at least some part in the management of the frat lots, and Waelde himself definitely has “tendrils in a lot of places.”

When I asked Regan how he felt about the whole situation, he was just happy for the support and that he had “established a successful critique of the almost Mafia-esque way Five Points is run and talked about.” To challenge the power and prestige of a local businessman and win? That’s pretty cool. He also spoke to Waelde on the phone and told him that while he believes Waelde is morally and ethically wrong, Regan doesn’t hate him personally.

I asked Regan moving forward what he hoped would change. For Waelde, he hopes that this will ideally be a wake-up call about the way he runs his business. In Regan’s perfect world, Drinking Ticket would either grow up or deactivate, but only time will tell how this changes the brand.