All I know about the Vikings is that (1) my mother-in-law loves them and (2) Toby Gerhard went there, so they can't be all bad. But because my football-watching is mostly confined to cheering Stanford, I had never heard of Bernard Berrian, a wide receiver for the Vikings.
Matt Ulford, a Marine and who blogs under the handle Captain Caveman at the blog Kissing Suzy Kolber, had heard of him. More specifically Ulford had head that Berrian had gotten very slightly exercised at somebody on Twitter. There's really no point in getting mad at people on Twitter (with the exception of certain people who damn well know who they are and what they did). Getting into spats on Twitter does not show the sort of decorum and excellent judgment we have come to associate with professional football players.
Ulford saw an opportunity for satire. He wrote a rather funny post, in which he used photoshop to depict Berrian in a Twitter-based dispute with various figures including the Pope, the Dali Lama, and a puppy. Persons of ordinary intelligence would see, immediately, that the whole thing was a parody. I wish I could show it to you, but I can't.
Because Bernard Berrian, and his representative Lindsey Deierling (VP of Publicity at EAG Sports) are sniveling censorious douchebags. Deierling sent an email making legal threats, asserting that the parody was defamatory and damaging to Berrian's public image.
Ulford and the blog took the post down:
How did our First Amendment right to free speech and satire get quashed? Well, that’s easy: we don’t have the sort of legal funds that can handle a frivolous lawsuit, so we pulled the post instead of standing up for our constitutional rights and getting sued for the trouble.
Now even the Google cache has disappeared. I viewed it before it vanished — the photoshopped tweets were ridiculously obviously satirical and pretty funny. Therefore it was obviously protected by the First Amendment. Satire of public figures that cannot reasonably be taken as true cannot be the basis for a defamation claim. Yet censorious thugs like Berrian and Deierling can succeed in suppressing satire. That's because many jurisdictions do not have effective anti-SLAPP statutes, so that even an eventual victory can be prohibitively expensive.
What can we do about this?
1. We can do this right here: introduce the Berrians and Deierlings to the Streissand Effect. They need to know that for every post they censor through frivolous legal threats, ten more will pop up repeating the original content and identifying them as un-American tools.
2. We need to name and shame. Too often censorious threats are only associated with the celebrities on whose behalf they are made, rather than with their loathsome mouthpieces like Lindsey Deierling of EAG Sports. Name them. Point them out as the thuggish censors that they are. Write some of their other clients and ask: why would you be represented by a person like this?
3. As always, educate yourself about anti-SLAPP statutes in your jurisdiction, and support anti-SLAPP initiatives.
4. Consider donating to legal defense funds. If you're a lawyer, consider donating pro bono time to the victims of censorship.
Don't let the oversensitive thugs win.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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