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Censorship The Media

Columnist Threatens to Sue Blogger 432

Posted by michael
from the fair-and-balanced dept.
floppy ears writes "Pseudonymous blogger Atrios has been threatened with a subpoena and lawsuit for defamation. Apparently Atrios used a headline 'Diary of a Stalker' in reference to Donald Luskin. In response to the posting, several anonymous commentators made some allegedly libelous statements about Luskin, and now Luskin has hired an attorney and started making threats and demands. The funniest thing is that Luskin has previously referred to himself as a stalker in his own headline: 'We Stalked. He Balked.'."
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Columnist Threatens to Sue Blogger

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  • by r_glen (679664) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @10:49AM (#7347769)
    Whereas perhaps 20 people would have read that blog before, now thousands will.
  • by tizzyD (577098) * <tizzyd AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday October 30, 2003 @10:49AM (#7347773) Homepage
    My goodness, now if anyone says anything that makes you look bad, you're gonna sue them.

    It reminds me of the Scientology approach: if anyone says anything bad about you, use the courts to silence them. Lovely.
  • by watzinaneihm (627119) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @10:53AM (#7347810) Journal
    If I read the blog and the article correctly, this is a case where two guys are throwing mud at each other.Finally one of them couldnt take it anymore and called a lawyer. The only thing that is probably interesting to slashdot is that somebody is not willing to treat blogging equivalent to free speech.
    Next article please....
  • by gfxguy (98788) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @10:55AM (#7347837)
    Luskin is not a stalker in the legal sense, which is what Krugman implied on national TV. Luskin went to ONE lecture by Krugman.

    The controversy of Luskin calling himself a stalker stems from literal and non-literal uses of the word. I find the whole thing nonsense, but any third party who is going to step in and start parroting something like "so and so is a stalker" is only going to get what they are asking for.

    Stalking is a serious crime. To accuse someone of it, in the literal sense, is akin to me accusing someone of being a child molester - I'd better have some evidence to back that claim up. I would not expect to NOT be called on it. It's NOT like calling someone an idiot or a jerk.
  • Use (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Espectr0 (577637) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @10:56AM (#7347853) Journal
    First, a guy gets fired, now a guy gets sued...

    Come on people, use your blogs to talk about yourself, or what you like, etc, but don't talk about anyone else, or this is what can happen.
  • by JamesKPolk (13313) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @10:58AM (#7347863) Homepage
    Stalking is a felony in many (most) parts of America, so this accusation being made is a serious one. Paul Krugman recently made the charge on Hannity and Colmes, a television program, and Luskin had to go there to defend himself, too. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from accountability, so I hope they find this guy and hold him accountable.

    Paul Krugman is a public figure, being a prominent columnist for the most prominent news paper in the country. If people like Luskin can't challenge public figures without being subject to this kind of abuse, then free speech really is in trouble.
  • Mod Parent Up (Score:3, Insightful)

    by saddino (183491) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @10:59AM (#7347880)
    Exactly. Why is this news? If you publish -- in any form -- you are beholden to laws (or in the firing case, beholden to the codes of conduct of your employer) -- and Luskin has the right to bring a course of action here. Whether he prevails or not is up to the courts.

  • by MsWillow (17812) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:08AM (#7347972) Homepage Journal
    People seem to have high opinions of themselves and their precious egos. Try reading some court decisions about libel and the net - there's a darned high threshold that must be passed for it to be considered libel. Denbeste [denbeste.nu] had a great comment about this - scan down to the entry labelled "Stardate 20031027.0423" to read it.

    Oj, yes, the obligatory IANAL, just in case anybody was wondering.
  • by Dark Paladin (116525) <jhummel@NosPam.johnhummel.net> on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:08AM (#7347989) Homepage
    It seems as though most of the lawsuits regarding online publication, comments, and so on is the difference between "personal comments" and "news publication."

    I may be wrong, but I believe that the fine line between "libel" and "opinion" lies in who's talking, and what they're talking about. If the Local Sunday Times states for a fact that one week ago I was spotted by 100 people dancing naked in a local fountain, and no such event occurred, then I could be sue for libel.

    However, if some guy down the street told that to his neighbor - I don't believe I have a leg to stand on. Even if he was on TV and say "Yeah, he was out there doing that", and the news said "Well, that's what Mr. Jones has said", I'm still not sure I could sue either for libel (unless the news organization stated that for a fact - odds are, they'd use the statement "allegedly dancing naked in a fountain."

    So what is a blog, or a newsgroup posting then? To most people here, they are "comments", "opinions", things that you take with a grain of salt. You don't take them as fact.

    Of course, some online articles are meant to be fact - Salon, perhaps even a gaming site like Blues News could if they knowingly published false information.

    But I think Mr. Luskin made a mistake in the difference between "some guy who's got an opinion who happens to write it down for others to read" and "a true news organization." My hope is that the courts rule that blogs, newsgroups, and other "commentary" style online posting are just that - some person expressing their viewpoints on something, perhaps in a sarcastic tone, but not held up to the same standards as a true "news" publication.

    Now, if I can just figure out which Fox News is...

    Of course, this is all just my opinion. I could be wrong.
  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) * on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:14AM (#7348056)
    What ever happened to free speech?

    It's alive and well. It does not, however, allow someone to accuse somone else of a serious crime in print. That's libel. That bloggers, whose amateur globally-distributed ramblings would eventually be held to the same degree of accountability as the professional work of a reporter working at a newspaper in suburban Topeka should come as a relief, not a surprise.
  • Re:Use (Score:2, Insightful)

    by felix71 (49849) <`chris.levesque' `at' `gmail.com'> on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:21AM (#7348125) Homepage
    So what you're saying is that we shouldn't expose the deserving to ridicule? Did you even read the site in question, or the link the the person threatening to sue? Please.

    Two issues for you:

    1. Atrios didn't suggest that this dude was an actual stalker, or imply that the people who read his blog (one of the most popular, btw) to harass or threaten anyone.

    2. Have you listened to conservative cheap-labor types go after people who question them? They never get sued for the libelous and slanderous things they spew...including the filth put out by Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulture. Try to objectively recall the tings they said about President Clinton for jus a bit.

    This is nothing more than a SLAPP lawsuit. Something designed to irritate the person sued to make them go away when they expose something you don't like.

    Should Atrios have used a different post title? Maybe. But is it something he (or she) should get sued over? Not hardly. This is the type of crap that keeps real issues in our courts bottled up.
  • by gfxguy (98788) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:32AM (#7348260)
    Another angry left rant. What, exactly, do you want Bush to do?

    What, EXACTLY, are benefits the "rich" are getting that poor people aren't? And while you're at it, define "rich".

    You want to stem financial disaster? How about this: todays news is that the GDP grew a WOPPING 7.2 percent (best quarter in almost 20 years). The estimates of the deficit keep shrinking because of the tax cut (even JFK knew how that worked). New requests for unemployment benefits have also dropped, and are staying below the 400,000 mark ("Most economists consider new claims below the 400,000 threshold as a sign of a recovery. This is the fourth consecutive week the figure has been below that level." - CNN).

    So what exactly do you want? I am NOT a Bush apologist, I WANT him to cut spending, and I find it sadly laughable that lefties hate him so much. This guy is a democrats dream come true - if you couldn't win the whitehouse, he's the best republican you could have asked for. Read this [foxnews.com] story. Bush got along wonderfully (as much as can be expected) as governer of Texas. It wasn't until he was elected president that the hatred of the extreme left came out.

    Partisan politics sucks. I know it goes both ways, but I've never seen such extremism as I've seen coming from the left. Bush could wipe out disease and world hunger and Howard Dean would find something wrong with it (what about all those germs on unemployment?). Bush Jr. has done more for this country than Clinton ever did (or had to do), and he's done it under horrible circumstances. Is he perfect? Hardly. Would I being doing things differently if I were president? You bet your sweet ass I would. But all things considered, he's doing a great job.
  • There's nothing funny about this that I can see. Some poor guy who hasn't hurt anybody will have to spend x number of hours out of his life to deal with this crap and to make the money to pay the lawyers to get Luskin off his back. It's about as funny as the side of your car getting spraypainted with swastikas.
  • by spiritraveller (641174) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:36AM (#7348301)
    The point of this--which seems to escape most commenters--is that this is being used as a tactic to "out" Atrios.

    He is an anonymous blogger on political issues--an especially sticky area considering our First Amendment.

    Here is the expected sequence of events:
    1. Luskin subpoenas blogspot.com, get's Atrios' real name.
    2. Atrios served with complaint.
    3. Atrios $$$$$$$$$hires lawyer$$$$$$$$$$$$
    4. Lawyer writes response
    5. Lawsuit dismissed because Luskin himself referred to himself as a "stalker" and the supposed slanderous comment is a mere repetition of that phrase with no added detail. There are First Amendment reasons the lawsuit should be dismissed but it's not necessary to detail them all.

    Meanwhile, Atrios is no longer anonymous.

    Given that the purpose of this lawsuit is not to win, but to uncover a person's identity and chill their right to free speech, Luskin and his lawyer should be subject to sanctions.
  • Re:THAT'S IT (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30, 2003 @01:22PM (#7349722)
    But the internet its full of drivel just because it isn't in a blog does not mean that someone can sign up for a geocities website and still the post the same drivel. I personally think that bloggers have every right to post their opinions, its protected under the first amendment. So i think it would be a travesty and a very dangerous precedent if Luskin won.
  • Re:THAT'S IT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by greenhide (597777) <jordanslashdot@c ... m ['y.c' in gap]> on Thursday October 30, 2003 @02:07PM (#7350305)
    Hmmm...doesn't seem like it was drivel to me. Seems like it was a case of, "I don't agree with this guy's politics, or his methods of getting his point across. He's called himself a stalker before, and he's a stalker in this latest blog that he's written".

    That sounds like free speech to me, the same kind that Luskin enjoys.

    Most content on the web is uninteresting to anyone except the person who posted it and a small circle of their friends and family. If it actually ends up being interesting to more people, then it will attract the attention of other people who will read it. So, I honestly don't see how you're affected by uninteresting blogs unless you're actively seeking them out.

    I myself have never spent time, energy, or mental anguish over a blog page I didn't like or find interesting. I just clicked the back button and forgot all about it.

    If anything, Luskin's page poorandstupid.com is pretty offensive and doesn't jive with any of my politics. He seems willing to openly attack other people, particularly this one poor columnist. However, I wouldn't question his right to write what he's written, although if he keeps on stalking, there might be legal grounds for him to be given a restraining order or something of that nature.

    Seems like he can dish it out but he can't take it.
  • by fenix down (206580) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @03:21PM (#7351257)
    Just for the general audience...

    Alright, I'm not going to argue the economic point. Here's the summary: housing, unsustainable growth, debt, euros, small inventories. Try and figure it out. I'll do a quickie on why Bush is bad, though.

    The line between liberal/conservative economic policies is basically gone, at this point. Clinton was arguably more conservative than Bush in most economic areas. My problem with Bush isn't conservative/liberal, it's the thought process. Bush came in with a fixed set of ideas. Invade Iraq, drill for oil in Alaska, cut taxes, cut programs, break off relations with the international community, yadda yadda yadda. He's just rotated the explainations and the focus. He does not respond to stimuli. It's possible that many of his predetermined reactions turned out to be effective, but he's like an AIMbot. Occasionally he gives the illusion of having understood things, but it's just an illusion. I'm not saying he's stupid, either, he's just working towards a different goal than he ought to be.

    What's the goal? Who knows. Personally, I think his only real reason for becoming president was to prove that he could, and in the process of getting there, he accumulated people who wanted to get just a few particular things done. PNAC, a few oil guys, some economists... just some guys. I'm sure there are people in there who really care, but the structure is set up in such a way that there's no filter for the public good at the top. Everybody below just keeps pushing their #1 pet project, and without a few good guys up at the top to temper that, it get a little out of control.

    Of course, it's not helping that 90% of the pet policies that get most of the attention are ones that got called in to Rush a decade ago by Oregonian white supremacist groups and militias, and then got picked up by academics who just attached their own cool rationales to them.

    Whatever. I'm just kinda worried that George is going to lose his faith one of these days and be back on the saucce by noon.

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