It's time for Popehat's Second Annual "Censorious Asshat of the Year" poll.
The rules of eligibility are arbitrary and capricious, but here are a few: (1) it has to be someone we've written about, (2) it has to be someone whose censorious behavior has a certain spark that elevates it above the mundane, and (3) it can't involve someone I represented, or for that matter anyone currently threatening to report me to the U.N. for hate crimes or whatever.
Here, in reverse chronological order, are the candidates.
Robert Alistair McAlpine, Baron McAlpine of West Green, who reacted to a false and vile news report by threatening not only the network that issued the report, but people who who merely repeated it on Twitter. In Aggravation: Had his attorneys issue Maoist self-criticism forms and suggest that anyone who mentioned the story should fill them out. In Mitigation: Was genuinely wronged by incompetent BBC reporting.
Matthew Overstreet of Casey Movers, who immolated his company's brand with foolish defamation threats against a bad Yelp review. In Aggravation: expressly bragged about dragging someone to a distant court. In Mitigation: He's obscure, pitiful, and has largely retreated.
Craig Brittain of "Is Anybody Down?", who used a frivolous and barely coherent DMCA notice to try to censor Popehat posts about his vile fraud scheme. In Aggravation: A thoroughly despicable fraudster and purveyor of involuntary porn designed to abuse and humiliate. In Mitigation: None.
The Reading University Student Union and its leaders Kara Swift, Kath Davey, Richard Silcock, and Ceri Jones, for pursuing disciplinary proceedings against a student group for displaying a pineapple named Mohammed, on the grounds it caused offense. Sorry, "Offence." In Aggravation: Betraying a proud heritage, contributing substantively to the decline of Western Civilization in favor of an imagined right not to be offended. In Mitigation: They very likely have never been taught any better.
Attorney Charles Carreon, who in an ongoing saga this year sent a bumptious and frivolous defamation threat to a popular webcomic, and when met with ridicule and satire, retaliated with frivolous federal litigation seeking to interfere with a charitable campaign that offended him. Also threatened a blogger for satirizing him and wrote to that blogger's employer. In Aggravation: Purports to be an internet lawyer and a defender of freedom, despite having no apparent grasp of the internet and an abiding hatred of freedom. In Mitigation: It's rubble-bouncing at this point, and his asshattery resulted in major donations to good causes.
Larry Bodine of Lawyers.com, who reported lawyers to Twitter for spamming when they used a marketing hashtag to comment on a vapid legal marketing event. In Aggravation: He and his ilk are making the legal profession, no bed of roses to begin with, measurably more awful. In Mitigation: It seems as if this was a passing fancy between feckless eructations of marketing-gibberish rather than a long-term thing.
The University of California's Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion, which issued a broad-based recommendation for patently unconstitutional campus hate speech laws, addressing the First Amendment issues with an imperial hand-wave: “The Team recognizes that changes to UC hate speech policies may result in legal challenge, but offer [sic] that UC accept the challenge.” In Aggravation: By example, teaching university students to be stupider and more censorious. In Mitigation: Irrelevant, even for a university advisory committee.
John Rocker, brought in to WorldNetDaily to add gravitas, who offered a nearly perfect articulation of the ridiculous viewpoint that criticizing someone is a form of censorship, a long-standing Popehat bugaboo. In Aggravation: He's being a dick about people being a dick about people being a dick, and the recursion is giving me a headache. In Mitigation: Who?
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, for threatening — albeit briefly — to bar Chick-Fil-A from Boston because its owners have regrettable views on gays and gay marriage. In Aggravation: Overtly threatened abuse of government power. In Mitigation: A born politician, he doesn't mean anything he says, and likely lacks the ability to govern his words or actions.
Sinclair Community College President Steven L. Johnson, for explaining that protesters at his state-run school are prohibited from using protest signs because of 9/11 and Virginia Tech. In Aggravation: Invoking the name of honored dead to suggest Americans should cower at the prospect of misspelled and poorly thought-out signs about Veganism and capitalist pigs or something. In Mitigation: After prolonged exposure to the academic environment, incapable of thinking like a normal person.
The Olympic Establishment, for pestering and insulting knitters and policing the pronouncements of publicans, purportedly in an effort to wring every last drop of lucre out of human athletic achievement. In Aggravation: Don't mess with fries, fuckers. In Mitigation: If we'd turn the damn TV off and stop buying the geegaws, they'd stop.
Raanan Katz, who is remarkably photogenic if you find Jabba the Hutt alluring, embarked on a legal campaign against people publishing his picture and writing about him, including saying that pointing to the alleged defamatory blogs might itself be defamation and arguing that representing people he's suing is itself actionable. In Aggravation: He thinks his money ought to make him immune to criticism. In Mitigation: He seems really quite sensitive. There should be some kind of program for that.
Berkeley Chief of Police Michael K. Meehan, who disagreed with a story written about his department, and so sent a police officer to the home of the journalist at 12:45 a.m. to ask that it be changed. In Aggravation: That's some straight-up stone-cold thuggery. In Mitigation: the article apparently hurt his feelings; it's possible that in Berkeley that's against the law.
Brett Kimberlin, a convicted perjurer and bomber who abused the justice system by seeking and obtaining "peace orders" prohibiting blogger Aaron Walker from writing about him, a legal atrocity that was only overturned with great effort. In Aggravation: Kimberlin engaged in a campaign of bombing terror, wounded a man so badly that he later took his own life, laughed off the judgment against him for years, and now thinks that the law should prevent people from writing about him. In Mitigation: Nothing. Not a damn thing. Nothing at all. Except this. Maybe.
The Lincolnshire Police, who threatened John Richards with arrest if he did not take down a letter-sized piece of paper in his window bearing the slogan "religions are fairy stories for adults." Because feelings! In Aggravation: Part of the vanguard of the sad decline of a great culture. In Mitigation: Would no doubt have been extremely polite and gentle in arresting Mr. Richards for that mean piece of paper.
The Legislatures of Arizona and Connecticut, both of which toyed with trend-humping, foolish, overbroad, and badly drafted "cyberbullying" legislation in an effort to prevent people from being mean on the internet. In Aggravation: They took oaths of office to uphold the Constitution. In Mitigation: Nobody expects them to keep those oaths.
Here is the poll. One vote only. The poll closes midnight on the 31st.