the first amendment really does mean that you get to say mean things about me… and i about you… we can always choose to ignore it… or point out the problems with each other’s thinking… or try to find common ground… but i hear people don’t matter so why bother???
lets just silence and demean them instead…
On today’s episode of Don’t Say That!, we have the case that actually made me think that creating a feature that discusses the free speech implications of various things at Pink Ink was in fact a good idea… PETER THIEL.
Or at least for today… Peter Thiel’s lawyer.
You know, the one that ended up smashing Gawker and Nick Denton to bits, is apparently still firing off letters on legal stationary to various people that all seem to say… Don’t Say That!!!
Harder’s campaign against the press closely tracks with the ideology of Trump, who has turned his campaign into a sustained assault on the media. Peter Thiel spoke at the Republican National Convention to praise Trump’s political vision. Ailes currently advises the Trump campaign. Trump has repeatedly criticized the perceived weakness of U.S. libel laws and has openly threatened to sue the New York Times over its reporting on his life and presidential run.
“It’s not a huge leap to imagine which lawyer would bring a defamation case on [Trump’s] behalf,” the Hollywood Reporter observed last week in a profile of Harder. The Reporter also noted his prior threats against Gawker over a story involving Trump’s hair, as well as the two men’s shared opinion that U.S. libel laws need to be strengthened in favor of plaintiffs. “I think the actual malice standard is too stringent,” Harder told the magazine, referring to the legal principle that a public figure must prove that a defendant acted with “actual malice” to prevail in a defamation case against a news outlet.
In late August, Harder issued several new legal threats against Gizmodo Media Group over stories that were, in some cases, published years ago. One targeted a 2014 Deadspin story about a former ESPN employee named Heather Paskewich, who claimed in a federal lawsuit that her supervisor, Heli Soto, digitally manipulated photos of her to be more “sexually provocative” and posted them online. Harder, who is now representing Soto, listed nine allegedly “false and defamatory” passages from Deadspin’s coverage of the lawsuit.
The whole ‘war on journalists‘ started by Peter Thiel has only just begun. It seems that people feel Hulk Hogan’s case has set a kind of precedent and are presumably hoping to either collect big bucks $$$ or hurt the journalists who reported their shit behavior.
If I were a lawyer this is where I’d do some lawyer type talking. But I am not. I’ll let people like Popehat.com, Overlawyered.com, and TechDirt.com do that kind of thing when these various cases move forward and become news worthy.
Honestly I’m tired and really don’t want to dig too deep into this lawyer fellow’s cases right now. So for now, I’d just like to offer some passing commentary…
- Peter Thiel is an ass. Instead of engaging in counter-speech, instead of convincing people not to patronize Gawker, he used his money to get the court system to essentially destroy part of our collective culture.
- Just because you don’t like something, even if it’s untrue, that does not mean a journalist has committed a crime. Again, instead of being a snot nosed brat and threatening to sue everybody, you can do this thing called ‘speaking‘ to correct the issue.
- Everybody makes mistakes. You, me, even bees. A sociologist might argue that making mistakes, and forgiving them, is a much more ‘American‘ thing to do than say… sue somebody.
Anyways, stay tuned for more episodes of Don’t Say That!
Coming soon we have a story about Trump supporters trampling all over the entire concept of the First Amendment while claiming they’re protecting it…
And an episode of Media Ethics where CNN supposedly prevented a focus group from supporting third-party presidential candidates…
I can’t help but wonder if Peter Thiel likes Donald Trump so much because they both love suing people for saying things that they don’t like… how un-american is that…
Update (10/11/2016) – TechDirt.com (Mike Masnick) Commentary!
The article has a few more examples of Harder threat letters to Univision/Gizmodo, but the most ridiculous of all is the most recent letter, sent last month. It’s not even about a Gizmodo/Gawker article at all. Rather it’s about an article in Forbes (which is not owned by Univision) about Univision’s dumb decision to pull a bunch of old Gawker stories over misplaced (and legally clueless) liability worries. In that article, Forbes reporter Ryan Mac got a few comments from John Cook, Gawker/Gizmodo Media’s executive editor, who protested the Univision decision vehemently. In the article, Mac quotes Cook saying some things about Harder himself:
“The end goal for Charles Harder is to harm people,” he said. “Whether that’s A.J. Daulerio or Sam Biddle or Nick Denton or me. I do not believe he has his client’s interests at heart.”
That apparently caused Harder’s firm (in the form of lawyer Ryan Stonerock, who works for Harder) to send a letter on behalf of Harder himself, arguing that the statement above is defamatory. It’s not. But here’s what the letter had to say:
The bolded sentence in the Defamatory Statement is false, malicious and highly defamatory. Moreover, both the first and last sentences in the Defamatory Statement constitute tortious interference with contractual relations, namely Mr. Harder’s existing client relationships. The Defamatory Statement also constitutes tortious interference with prospective economic advantage in regard to Mr. Harder’s future clients, among other claims.
Mr. Harder hereby demands an immediate public retraction of the Defamatory Statement and an apology, as well as the payment of damages or an alternative agreeable resolution. If Univision and Mr. Cook fail to comply and respond to these demands immediately, Mr. Harder will not hesitate to exercise his rights in pursuing legal action against Univision, the executives at Univision who are responsible for the hiring of Mr. Cook based upon negligent hiring practices (Mr. Cook has a long line of defamatory activity, and has been sued for it in multiple public lawsuits of which Univision executives have been well aware for months), and against Mr. Cook himself.
This is, to put it mildly, a load of complete bullshit. Harder, who in that profile claims “I believe very strongly in a free press” doesn’t seem to understand how the First Amendment works. Cook’s statement is clearly one of opinion, and it’s clearly protected speech. And despite Harder also saying in that profile that he’d like to change the standard for defamation of public figures, the law as it stands requires not just that the statements be false statements of fact, but also that they be said maliciously. And, yes, Harder is a public figure (remember, there was just a whole Hollywood Reporter feature about him).
What Harder appears to be doing here is little more than threatening a SLAPP suit to try to shut up the press from saying negative things about him. Even the references to Cook being sued in the past are ridiculous, since most of those lawsuits are from Harder himself, and most of them are completely bogus.
So far, it does not appear that Univision is complying with any of these demands (which is good to see). So, let’s see what Harder does next. Is he now going to go after Univision too? Will Thiel continue to fund that as well? Because most of the threats seem entirely bogus, and would be laughed out of court.
Frankly it’s amazing this lawyer is still firing off lawyerly letters. You would’ve hoped that after successfully destroying Gawker that Thiel and friends would just vanish into thin air… no more threats… no more letters claiming all kinds of things… just ~ poof ~.
Instead it seems to me* that this law man fellow is going to be spending his time instilling fear into the media. Making sure nobody writes anything that anybody doesn’t like… because good press is a right. I imagine that’d be a good job to have. There seems to be a never ending stream of people interested in suppressing other people’s speech… hint why the Don’t Say That article series exists.
It kind of reminds me of the attitude people took to Europe’s ‘right to be forgotten’. It seems to me that people are a lot more interested in hiding their poor behavior from others by suppressing speech instead of you know… just taking responsibility for their actions.
It’s all very childish.
But here we are.
*denotes an opinion… sorry readers, I’d hate to have some law man send me a letter saying I defamed them for you know… thinking out-loud.