November 29, 2007

One Small Step For Blogkind

Filed under: Commentary,News — Tom @ 11:42 pm

Image shamelessly appropriated from the good folks at Sadly, No!, and in no way should be considered to imply that Rachael Neuworth is a flaming douchebag

Okay, so maybe it’s not as juicy as the Shag Fund scandal*. But former fellow Open Source Politics blogger Richard Silverstein has just successfully defended himself from a libel lawsuit brought against him by Rachael Neuwirth for content on his blog**:

Tonight is not a good night for Rachel Neuwirth. Like Casey at the bat, she took a mighty swing & like Casey she struck out.

She sued me for libel in Los Angeles Superior Court because I called her a “Kahanist swine.” Her claim was that this was the same as claiming she was a Jewish terrorist since Kahane Chai, Meir Kahane’s Israeli political party, is designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a terrorist organization.

Her attorney, Charles Fonarow, told my attorneys that her case was a “slam dunk.” Seems Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Reid had a different idea. It’s also important to note that Judge Reid is no activist liberal judge. He teaches law at Pepperdine University law school where Kenneth Starr is the dean. He’s a law and order conservative and he understood the principles of free blog speech that were involved in this case. He understood that calling someone a Kahanist swine, while not perhaps the most refined turn of phrase in the world, is permitted in the context of public discourse on an issue of great civic importance.

We won the case with an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) motion under which the defendant must prove that his speech was made in a public arena and furthered a public good and that the plaintiff was a public figure. Rachel’s key defense was that she is a private figure (she argued that she was merely a real estate agent) and the my blog was a private forum (because I “controlled” it), all of which are patently false since she herself calls herself an “internationally respected journalist” in her online bio. That my blog is a public forum is also patently obvious as 250,000 unique visitors each year indicate. And I no more ‘control’ the 6,000 comments published on my blog than I control the entire web.


There’s much more at the various links as well as a lot of other stuff within comments and/or at other sites (which the Funny Farm strongly advises you avoid unless you have a strong stomach and a thick hide), and of course I’m not very well versed on the minutiae of the whole story. So you’ll have to decide for yourself.

I heartily applaud Mr. Silverstein for winning the first round*** here, fighting the good fight, and leading by example.

* – Groovy, baby!

** – I’m not exactly sure what the whole kerfluffle is about; apparently there are some radical blog sites out there that Richard has been outing to their web hosts, and Neuwirth thought a SLAPP suit would cause Richard to back down from those activities. I’m also sure that I have no interest in wading into the bloggy cesspools that he has slogged through to gather such special attention from people like Ms Neuwirth.

*** – cause you know they’re going to appeal…

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