Only people or entities that we've written about in 2014 are eligible. I've culled the many asshats down to a few, based on volume and vigor of censoriousness, ridiculousness, hubris, and an X factor that I know when I see. Noted censorious asshat Brett Kimberlin has ascended to our Censorious Asshat Hall of Fame and is no longer eligible. Don't be greedy, Brett.
Vote early and often! Here are the candidates:
Carl David Cedar, a Texas attorney who threatened blogger Scott Greenfield with violence and lawsuits when Scott criticized Carl for swiping someone else's blog content. In Aggravation: A rare example of threats that are longer than my analysis of them. In Mitigation: ultimately pathetic, like a college sports star gone to seed.
Crystal Cox, blogger and litigant, who won an important free speech victory even as she engaged in a deranged nationwide blitz of frivolous litigation against her critics. In Aggravation: Sued people, including yours truly, in 10 different federal courts for criticizing her. In Mitigation: batshit crazy.
Michiko Shiota Gingery, Koichi Mera, and GAHT-US Corporation, litigants against the City of Glendale, who filed a patently offensive and frivolous lawsuit on behalf of reactionary Japanese factions seeking to suppress a Comfort Women memorial in Glendale because history hurts their fee-fees. In Aggravation: revisionists and atrocity apologists. In Mitigation: none.
Professor Thane Rosenbaum, who tried to do for censorship what John Yoo did for torture: make a legal case for it. Rosenbaum put logic and First Amendment doctrine in stress positions in an effort to justify broad and unprincipled "hate speech" laws. In Aggravation: "Fire in a crowded theater." In Mitigation: As an academic, has had no exposure to adversarial testing of his awful legal theories.
Jim Ardis, Mayor of Peoria, who abused the power of the state to get search warrants to identify and raid someone who authored a clearly satirical Twitter account about him. In Aggravation: Lack of remorse, open use of lap-dog cops and judges. In Mitigation: Streisanded into the stone age.
Bergen Community College, which forced a professor on leave and required him to visit a psychiatrist because he posted a picture of his young daughter in a Game of Thrones t-shirt. In Aggravation: Went straight for the "OMG Virginia Tech think of the children!" excuse. In Mitigation: As modern college administrators, deprived of role models displaying common sense, proportion, or shame.
Dale D. Berkley, Senior Attorney with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, who sent a threatening letter to a blogger over a patently satirical post on government letterhead. In Aggravation: Your tax dollars paid for that. In Mitigation: what else is he going to do all day?
"Crisis Manager" Xavier Hermosillo, who was hired to help repair the reputation of the California town of Murrieta after its residents screamed at buses full of kids, and shrewdly elected to threaten a cartoonist with . . . we're still not sure exactly what. In Aggravation: YOU HAD ONE JOB. In Mitigation: To be fair, threatening cartoonists is a step back from screaming obscenities at kids on buses.
Miles Sisk, who sought to bring the mighty power of the University of Oregon government to bear against mean students who used memes to make fun of student senators. In Aggravation: Betokens doom of our civilization. In Mitigation: where's he gonna learn better?
Ares Rights, a shadowy firm that continues to abuse the DMCA in an effort to suppress reporting on and criticism of clients including the Ecuadorian government. In Aggravation: Persistent, utterly amoral. In Mitigation: managed to shut up Adam Steinbaugh for several minutes.
Roca Labs, which sells pink slime you eat to stop feeling so empty inside, and which is intent on one-upping Prenda Law by suing EVERYONE FOR ALL THE SPEECH. In Aggravation: Preposterously litigious and shamefully intolerant of criticism. In Mitigation: High potential for long-term entertainment and eventual cinematic flame-out.
Ken and Patrick of Popehat, who used Popehat's comments and Twitter feed as their own living room and ejected people who annoyed them when the mood struck. In Aggravation: Remorseless, rude, absent-minded, foul-mouthed, generally douchey. In Mitigation: Only idiots think that's censorship.
Voting closes at 5:00 Pacific Time on January 2, 2015.
We're customizing a new theme. Feel free to add your constructive feedback, positive or negative, to the comments below!
In the coming days, we'll be revisiting our venerable logo to make it larger and jauntier in the new theme. We'll also be making minor refinements and major changes as we discover things not to our liking. Feel free to add your thoughts by commenting!
I've been away from the blog for a while.
There will come a time when I'll write about the circumstances of my absence, which were unpleasant. But not today. For now, I'd like to express my gratitude for the support of my family, my co-bloggers here, and the friends who have written and offered good cheer. I'm very fortunate.
I'm back. Send in those story tips, requests for free speech help, abusive and confusingly scatological emails, and thus-and-such.
It's time for the Road to Popehat, the feature in which we examine the search logs, see what inquiries brought you here, and wonder whether literacy wasn't a cosmic mistake.
This week: people have questions!
how to the fucking? You're going to have to take that up with parents or perhaps a medical professional.
how to proceed when you are a too naive victim of a sociopath Run for Senate?
How to write an affidavit about underage drinking Our law enforcement, always looking to improve themselves.
As of May 2014 when are the Bush family going to shut down America and jail & kill their enemies Hold on a sec, I was just reading about this on Salon.
Was mule rape a form of torture The Department of Homeland Security prefers "animal asset assisted enhanced interrogation techniques."
How much jail time can you get for slander? Depends. Is the person you slandered rich or a politician?
What is another word for how to coerce innocent citizens "Criminal justice system"
Can you get an animal search warrant with an anonymous tip? Wait. Do you mean a warrant to search an animal, or a warrant to use an animal to search? These days, probably both.
We have added an Amazon "store" link to our front page, very attractively designed, I must say. This does not mean we'll be selling Popehat t-shirts, mitres, panties, or the like, though that day may come. What it allows us to do is provide recommendations on products, so far limited to books and sporting goods, to readers who may be interested in such things and who would like to support our site.
The books added so far are an eclectic lot, reflecting reading material discussed (and endorsed) on our front page, on Twitter, or our Facebook page through the years. And did I mention sporting goods?
We do receive a portion of the price of any sales generated through the site, but the buyer pays nothing extra. All funds received go to defraying out-of-pocket costs for running the site. Any funds received in excess of our out-of-pocket costs will be donated to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or to some similarly worthy charity.
As always, we thank our readers for their generous support.
And did I mention sporting goods? If only 100,000 of you will buy sporting goods through our store, we can all retire from our day jobs, to fulfill our proper purpose of providing entertainment for you, our valued readers.
Or at least insulting you, as (and if) you deserve.
It's time for the Road to Popehat: the feature in which we check our traffic logs to see what searches brought you here, and then think that maybe reality TV isn't so unreal after all.
This time: searchers used the following inquiries to reach Popehat in the month of November.
HOW DOES MODERN LITERATURE SHOW THAT COLLECTIVE SOCIAL VALUES ARE NOT PARTICULARLY MEANINGFUL LEADING TO
FAITHLESSNESS SKEPTICISM AND A CONFUSED SENSE OF IDENTITY
do you get pepper sprayed or tazed to become a criminal psychologist
explain the reasons why there is absence of oxygen haemonculus using an example of an insect
Which drag queen is going to be at climax in Modesto?
law suits threaten me?
how does voluntary work in situations where a person commits a voluntary act with involuntary consequences (such as drunk driving?
can i be sued for publicly calling someone an asshole?
how to write a blackmail letter that your lawyer suggested
does rhetoric have reductive consequences?
what feelings does this speech evoke in readers? a. hostility and anger c. sadness and sympathy b. neutrality and objectivity d. cool restraint
when will comcast sounds of seasons play christmas music?
Consequencies of using candle, finger or any object to satisfy ones urge?
how do we called lowyer?
I think only about 10% of these people found what they were looking for.
I've accepted an invitation to speak at the Liberty Forum in New Hampshire in February 2014. The Liberty Forum is hosted by the Free State Project, which seeks to persuade libertarian-minded citizens to move to New Hampshire to pursue more limited governments.
Here's the talk I am giving:
Online Censorship By Lawfare: How Thin-Skinned People Abuse The Legal System To Shut You Up, And What You Can Do About It
The internet gives us unprecedented power to talk about things that are important to us. Our audience is limited only by the persuasiveness of our message and our creativity in spreading it. But some of our neighbors don’t like being criticized online. Across America, everyone from rich corporations to isolated and deranged individuals are taking advantage of a flawed legal system to shut down online speech they don’t like. Regardless of the merits of their cases, unprincipled people can and will sue you to shut you up, and their suits cost time and money. What can you do about it? Ken White is a First Amendment litigator and a blogger at Popehat.com, where he uses the “Popehat Signal” to help beleaguered bloggers find pro bono defense against defamation suits. He’ll explain the flaws in our legal system that allow this abuse, and describe what you can do to protect yourself and make speech more free in America.
I'm also participating in a panel on criminal justice issues.
We all know that the correct response to law enforcement in consensual encounters is "Am I being detained?" and "Am I free to go?" but what happens if you get arrested? What should you expect to happen if you end up going to court? This panel not only examines procedural aspects of the justice system but also deals with how to deescalate law enforcement encounters to avoid arrest and court.
I'm looking forward to meeting fellow speakers I admire like Trevor Timm and Clark Neily, among others. I'm also interested in hearing ideas that challenge me, and trying to challenge others. The Free State Project, and some of the speakers at the event, have views I don't share; I have views they don't share. But I think we all share — or should share — core beliefs about freedom of expression and the dangers of overly powerful and unaccountable law enforcement, and I look forward to exploring those topics. It's a good thing for people from different backgrounds with different views to converge on core values.
I'd enjoy meeting any Popehat readers who are there.
[Early in the new year I've also been invited to give a talk about sexual harassment prevention at a secular event, in case you think this engagement makes me too easy to predict.]
After 4 hours, the server came back to life. The ISP's customer service representative sent a note to explain that (a) they could not find a problem and didn't know what we were on about, and (b) they fixed it and were glad to help.
Simple comment bookmarking!
In the lower-right corner of each comment, you'll see a pushpin icon. If you click it, the browser will silently set a cookie remembering your place. Next time you visit that page of comments, look for the corresponding pushpin right at the top of the Comments section. Click it, and you'll scroll right down to the comment you previously marked (if it's on the present page).
That should allow you to pay attention to more weighty matters, such as correcting whoever's wrong on the internet!
I'm seriously considering banning or pasting anyone who shows up in the comments to say "I like Popehat author X but I hate Popehat author Y," or "I wish I could read Popehat author Q without reading Popehat author Z," or words to that effect. Patrick already decided to ban anyone who warns us not to harm our brand, a perfectly sound policy.
I suspect this approach would not deprive us of any audience participation of significant value.
Feel free to comment. Please don't let me being in a pasting mood deter you.
Pray that I alter it further.
In the meantime, be sure to express your opinion in the comment field enhancement post.
I have implemented the following features for now:
- A preview pane that appears below the comment field as you type and shows you how your comment will appear after you submit it.
- A 5-minute timeout allowing you to edit your comment in case the preview pane betrays you.
- New HTML tags, including <table> and <tr> and <td> and <ul> and <li>.
- Clearer explanatory text below the comment field.
- Top Commenters by Volume (as measured in decibels) in the sidebar.
This poll is about the interface for adding a comment to a post. (It is not about comment threading. We'll deal with that separately.)
When people argue for robust "report spam" and "report abuse" tools on social media, I always have a reservation: those tools are inevitably abused by unprincipled people who want to silence speech they don't like.
Twitter is no different. The report function on Twitter is routinely abused in an effort to attack political opponents.1
In a mildly creative twist, some abusers flood opponents with huge numbers of spam followers. Then they report the opponent to Twitter. See, buying followers is a breach of terms of service, and flooding someone with spam followers makes it appear they have bought followers. If you want to protect yourself from this, the best way is to make your account private — which achieves the abuser's goal by reducing your audience.
Today Popehat's twitter account got hit with about 20,000 spam followers in the course of a couple of hours. That attack followed, by about an hour, my posting the Popehat Signal seeking help for bloggers sued by Brett Kimberlin. Some of the bloggers sued by Brett Kimberlin have also been attacked by surges of spam followers.
But I'm sure all that is just a coincidence.
Twitter makes this extremely difficult to deal with, because it is laborious to block spam followers one by one, and because Twitter forces you to contact support via form, and yet there is no suitable form for this situation.