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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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  • THAT'S IT (Score:2, Funny)

    by devphaeton (695736)
    Blogging is dying....
  • by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:48AM (#7347755)
    oh wait...
  • by r_glen (679664) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:49AM (#7347769)
    Whereas perhaps 20 people would have read that blog before, now thousands will.
  • by tizzyD (577098) * <{tizzyd} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:49AM (#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 saddino (183491)
      My goodness, now if anyone says anything that makes you look bad, you're gonna sue them.

      IMHO, libel and slander have always been valid reasons to pursue restitution in the courts.

      Why should blogging should not have any more protection than other forms of publishing (or speaking publicly for that matter)?
      • by efflux (587195) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:02PM (#7347913)
        As Luskin is a public figure, to sue atrios, his lawyers will have to not only show negligence of fact, but also that actual malice was intended.

        Now, as usual, IANAL, but I'm questioning how atrios can be held accountable for *other* posters' comments, especially when considering the demands of proving actual malice.

        Fuck Luskin.

      • Because blogs are just little public journals. Can you really call it "publishing" when you're just writing up your opinion on some hosted website?

        That's like if I called YOU a stalker in a Slashdot post, and you sued me for it. It's ridiculous. Sorry to burst the bubble, but I could make a website called saddinosucks.com and write stuff about you, and it wouldn't matter because it's my own personal website that I'm doing myself. Now, if I started making money off insulting you, that could be another s
    • It reminds me of the Scientology approach: if anyone says anything bad about you, use the courts to silence them. Lovely.

      Unless you're the government. Them you are the courts. Lovely Department of Justice.
    • There are death/violent threats against Luskin contained on the blog in question. It's one thing to call someone a bad name, its another to assist in the advocacy of violence against another. That crosses the line. It appears Luskin wants those removed. If that happens, it looks like the suit will be dropped. Not all to unreasonable. Defending threatning behavior is not defending the 1st Amendment.
      • its another to assist in the advocacy of violence against another

        As I posted elsewhere on this page, Luskin advocated cream-pieing Krugman on his book tour [poorandstupid.com]. This was he himself who posted this, not some anonymous reader of his blog. And now he doesn't want to be called a stalker?

        • Satire is a little different than that of bold faced, violent threats. I would not be threatened by someone advocating a pie attack when compared to someone advocating my death.
          • I would not be threatened by someone advocating a pie attack

            But a pie attack suggestion is much more likely to be acted upon. (Reading Luskin in context, I'm pretty convinced he wasn't being satirical.) Many celebrities have been victims, including Bill Gates [bitstorm.org] and (as your own posting shows) people don't sympathise so much or even view it as a violent attack.

        • How can you call Luskin, who's only even been in the physical presence of Krugman ONCE, a stalker?

          Advocating a pie in the face is one thing, but it doesn't make you a stalker. The extreme angry left advocates killing President Bush, but they aren't stalking him, they're just assholes.
      • Threats of violence in blog comments, apart from being really stupid, are an unfortunate problem for various types of political blogs. There's a real question there of legality and liability.

        However, in Atrios's post [blogspot.com] describing the incident, he claims that he offered to remove the offending comments, and that Luskin demanded instead that the whole post and all of its comments be removed.

        If true, that pretty much invalidates your point.


  • ...so all you have to do to beat the slander lawsuit is to claim you are doing "satire."

  • fascinating that people others want to know their daily rants and raves, what even fascinates me more is the people who read them. Are most bloggers some famed person who has achieved greatness and is willing to give insight into how they do what they do? No, it's bob the mechanic down the hill that repaired a faulty transmission on a '62 Buick the other day who just so happens to have a really cool website with his own personal blog section.

    - wash, rinse, repeat.
    • The nice thing about blogs is that anyone can be published. The interesting thing about people is that anyone can be insightful. The limiting factor is that 99% of everybody is a fucking jerkoff. Let's also not forget that half of everyone has less than a 100 I.Q., for what IQ testing is worth.

      Hence bob the mechanic might have a more interesting and/or useful blog than, say, ESR (since he's in our news ATM, he came to mind. Amazing, the power of media.) Bob's blog will be especially interesting if you h

    • Get your damn facts straight! He goes by Robert, not Bob and it was a '63 Buick not a '62... a Roadmaster if I recall correctly. Ah yes, a vintage '63 Buick Roadmaster... a sweet ride.

      Also note that the transmission was not deemed faulty. It worked fine with the original engine whiel the original engine. It was only after that engine was removed and a brand new 1000 horsepower engine was installed that the "faulty" transmission had problems. Who knew that a thousand ponies could do that much damage to a tr

  • observation? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fegg (79146)
    Is it a sign of the times that those who dissent seem to be attacked by those in power, or has that always been the case?
    • Re:observation? (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by RobotRunAmok (595286) *
      Is it a sign of the times that those who dissent seem to be attacked by those in power, or has that always been the case?

      No, it's a sign that the courts and libel laws are at last catching up with the amateur journalists who thought they were somehow above them.
  • by watzinaneihm (627119) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:53AM (#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....
    • Libel is not protected free speech. You can call someone an idiot, a jerk, even someone who supports baby-killing (what normal people might call pro-choice). But you can't call someone a criminal (a stalker, in this) without evidence.
      • The burden of evidence would be on the person filing the lawsuit. So, in order to win a lawsuit accusing someone of libel, you must prove that their statements are false. So, I can apparently call someone a criminal without evidence; they would seem to need evidence to the contrary.
        • I disagree. If you are going to accuse somebody of a crime, you need evidence. It doesn't matter if you actually bring someone before a court of law. I can't call you a child molester and say "it's not libel because you can't prove you aren't." That's not how it works.
  • Can't we... (Score:3, Funny)

    by toupsie (88295) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:54AM (#7347821) Homepage
    Just hope he is getting sued for blogging, period. That would be justice. Cat pictures alone should get you 3-5 years hard labor.
  • Luskin v. Krugman (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Henry V .009 (518000) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:54AM (#7347831) Journal
    Luskin's attacks on Krugman for National Review Online are often rather despicable. I am a conservative, but I can't stand reading Luskin. Besides, Krugman does have some good points. He has been saying that our record deficit (as high a percentage of the GDP as in the Reagan years) is leading to one of three options in the next decade: A) A steep tax hike soon B) A drastic cut in Government programs C) a financial crisis when the market decides that the government is not going to pay them back.

    Bush is aiming at B, but he has made no political preparation for it. Nobody is ready to accept drastic cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Without that preparation, we are most likely headed towards C.
    • If you're going to go way off target, let's talk about todays news that the economy grew over 7% in the last quarter, which makes government revenues go up, not down, which is why the deficit has been corrected DOWN, not up, new requests for unemployment benefits are DOWN, not up... You don't sound like a conservative to me, at least fiscally.

      Anyone failing to see the big picture is only blinded by a hatred for a man. The hatred grows when that man shows any signs of success.
      • The 7.2 number sounds good, but it will be revised. You need to understand the nature of these numbers.

        Do you even understand how the unemployment requests numbers work? You are putting a lot of faith in some in some rather pitiful news. Unemployment is still pretty bad.

        I don't sound like a fiscal conservative for hating huge deficits and being wary about the numbers? Now that's crazy.
      • Anyone failing to see the big picture is only blinded by a hatred for a man.
        You are talking about "the big picture" and at the same time you are refering to a recovery in the last quarter....?
      • And then let's not forget to mention that this is only one quarter of growth. Ignore all the deficit spending by the government, and the ever growing consumer debt levels.

        Sure, those numbers may go up in the short term, but in the long term, we're going to pay for that growth, and pay for it with interest.

        Anyone failing to see the big picture is only blinded by a hatred for a man. The hatred grows when that man shows any signs of success.

        Good signature. Bad application.
    • by Lysol (11150) *
      Excellent points.

      Indeed, that's exactly what the supply siders and starve the beasts want - no govt programs for the <= rich.

      I have nothing against being rich, in fact, I hope to be financially secure one day. However, until that happens and everyone has a job or some sort of income, then there will be need for safety nets - for the good of society.

      It is even more evident that the corporate crowd has blantently pitched its tent on the Whitehouse lawn and has no plans of leaving as long as this adminis
      • by gfxguy (98788)
        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 4
        • Partisan politics sucks.

          If you get filled with any more shit your head's gonna pop. Partisan politics sucks, but you throw the meaningless term "left" around like it was going out of style? You know, your head DOES contain a brain, it's not just ornamental. You could always just ignore people who insist on taking a party line on every issue since debating things with them is fruitless anyway. At the same time, you could have intelligent debates with people who think about each issue independant of what

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

          Okay, how about 87B of our tax dollars for awarding contracts without bidding to companies the administration has ties to, while most states are cutting back on educational programs for kids not rich enough to attend private schools.

          This guy is a democrats dream come true

          You mean the guy that suggests the way to prevent forest fires is by selling all the timber to his buddies in the timber
  • by gfxguy (98788) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:55AM (#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.
  • Free Publicity (Score:4, Informative)

    by avdi (66548) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:55AM (#7347843) Homepage
    I don't know why people do this... they have to realize by now that a libel suit (or any suit) against any kind of media or publishing organization is just free publicity for the defendant. The most unfortunate outcome of this is that babbling fools like Atrios get all the attention while better, more insightful bloggers get tarred with the same stigma of unprofessionalism without any of the benefit of publicity.
    • It's also free publicity for themselves. And if they believe that, in the course of the usual arguments that are going back and forth, that people who read the blogs will more often agree with them, then it's worth it.
  • Use (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Espectr0 (577637) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:56AM (#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.
    • Mod Parent Up (Score:3, Insightful)

      by saddino (183491)
      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 efflux (587195)
      We better hush about this whole thing then, eh? Since we're talking about someone now, even if indirectly.
    • Re:Use (Score:2, Insightful)

      by felix71 (49849)
      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 t
    • "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."

      So are they going to rejuggle the numbers on the amendments to the constitution, or will they keep the first in for historical interest?

  • by JamesKPolk (13313)
    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 f
    • The guy himself said "We Stalked", what more does he have to do. Luskin is a dick, or if not, is certainly making himself look like one. If he can't stand the heat he should get out of the kitchen, not go crying to his mummy.
  • by Espectr0 (577637)
    Sure, the guy gets sued, now add more pain to his misery and slashdot him into oblivion.

    Your daily slashdotting joke, i will be here all week.
  • Let's see...the victim is 'conservative'. The perpetrator is leftist. Therefore, Luskin is a total nutcase, and Atrios is a levelheaded First Amendment hero.
  • by MsWillow (17812) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:08PM (#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@@@johnhummel...net> on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:08PM (#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.
    • From what I can remember from my learnin' days, in order to successfully argue that someone has committed libel, you need to prove three things:

      1. What was written is false.
      2. The person who wrote it knew it was false.
      3. Damage was caused by what was written.

      Perhaps someone who doesn't need to prepend a statement with "IANAL" can clarify and expound.
  • Who cares about one journalist suing another for being a journalist. Both of these guys would be better served by actually finding some real news to report about. Ahhh forget it. People don't like real news it hurts too much.
  • that as you are posting on Slashdot, the lawyers for the parent corporation are quaking, thinking about the fate of the lawyer in Jurassic Park...

  • I read through many stories in his blog and finally came to one at the bottom of the link he cites the Chewbacca Defense. It is so cool to see mainstream culture come from a cartoon!
  • Even if you win, it's still a boring finger-point-fest by two whiney bitches.

    Or something like that.

    P.S. - Donald Luskin shakes it more than twice.

  • I'm amazed at the amount of support that Luskin is getting here. Just shocked, to be honest. Here's the equivilent.

    Slashdot reports on an article on how Microsoft is neglecting security concerns, and how they are being negligent.

    Microsoft, in turn threatens to sue Slashdot, and erase derogatory postings they might have.

    People would be up in arms..wouldn't they?

    This is a SLAPP suit...a lawyerpoint exposition..nothing more. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there are some other interests behind Luskin.
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug&geekazon,com> on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:34PM (#7348276) Homepage
    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.
  • The only reason I can see for this being on slashdot is the possibility that the NY Times (which is linked to all of the time) has some agreement with slashdot, this Luskin attacked one of their columnist and they are fighting back slashdot style? This stuff is silly, is there a tech site like slashdot that is not owned?
  • by spiritraveller (641174) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:36PM (#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.
  • This whole "calling him a stalker is libel 'cause that's a felony, blah blah blah" is bullshit. Luskin knows damn well that Krugman wasn't accusing him of having committed a felony. But he's desperately trying to score points and muzzle Krugman (and his defenders); Luskin is OBSESSED with the guy.

    Further, Luskin is a conservative, right? And he knows pro-lifers, right? Do you suppose he's ever, EVER come across someone who refers to abortion as murder? Or who calls women who've had abortions, or docto
  • several anonymous commentators made some allegedly libelous statements

    This is one of the most curious terms given to us by the current era of media and law suits. If I accuse you of something then it should be up to me to prove it, otherwise I've libelled you. But if you deny it then suddenly my accusation becomes "allegedly libelous", ie: you're the one making an accusation about me and now you have to prove it. It's getting to the point that anyone can say anything about anyone, and as soon as the perso

  • More detail. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wntrmute (18056) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:56PM (#7348569)
    A great explanation of the full story is here [markarkleiman.com], which should make it much easier to follow for people who don't read these particular blogs regularly.
  • If he's upset about the anonymous comments to the blog, I don't possibly see how this could hold up in court.

    First, it's possible that the site has a disclaimer like "we are not responsible for comments made to this site by the readers". If it doesn't, it probably should.

    Second, and most important, is that it's an anonymous comment. You can't really prove who wrote it. Luskin may have put those comments there with intent to then sue the site. Or, someone else with an agenda against either the site or Lusk
  • Something about that name was tickling my brain for a while before it settled in for me. It was the planet that the Doctor and Romana visited while looking for the 6th segment of the key to time. A propaganda-soaked, war-torn ruin of a world run by an insane military dictator.

    Funny, that.

    And now that I'm completely unvieled as a goober, I'll go away. Damn, I have having an itch like that in my head.
  • by Wah (30840)
    reading that guy's home page (the poor, stupid one), it seems objectively obvious that the guy is a stalker, at least in the colloquial sense.

    On meeting Paul Krugman : "I have looked evil in the face. I've been in the same room with it. I don't know how else to describe my feelings now except to say that I feel unclean, and I'm having to fight being afraid." -Donald Luskin

    Fight this one, but of course.

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