Good publicity

>> Monday, July 06, 2009

Some idiot once said, "There's no such thing as bad publicity," a moronic statement if there ever was one. He of course meant that even bad publicity gets your name "out there," but let's be honest: do you really want your name "out there" if it's attached to "kiddie porn connoisseur who got his ass thrown into a Vietnamese prison for screwing a twelve-year-old"? Duh, obviously you'd be better off just quietly and anonymously collecting your royalties from American sporting events.

I'm thinking about this because of Alaska's gift that keeps giving, yes, Governor-Soon-To-Be-Mrs. (GSTBM) Sarah Palin, who announced last week she was stepping out of the harsh glare of scrutiny that she was forced into when somebody pointed a gun to her head and forced her, unwillingly and unblinkingly, to accept Senator John McCain's invitation to be the Republican nominee for Vice-President, not to mention the trauma and horror she's suffered ever since an evil villain tied a bomb to her kid (I don't know which one, just pick one--wait, better not make it the one Letterman got in trouble over) and made GSTBM Palin appear in public at those fundraisers and on television and in front of that decapitated turkey, etc. I'm not sure what I have to add to what others have already said about GSTBM Palin's abrupt and mysterious announcement, aside from the fact that it sounded suspiciously like Poochie's last words, thus I await the imminent announcement that GSTBM Palin died on her way back to her home planet, and that I'm still confused about GSTBM Palin's evident confusion about what it means to be a "lame duck"--she's only about halfway through her first term, after all, so I don't know why she didn't just finish her term and not run for re-election. Perhaps she meant she really has an actual lame duck at home that she's caring for until it can swim or fly on its own, in which case perhaps Northern Exposure was a far more realistic portrayal of everyday life in Alaska than I ever would have suspected or feared.

The first thought, inevitably, is that there must be something scandalous afoot, from which another shoe will (proverbially) drop, although Salon's Joan Walsh makes the point that GSTBM Palin doesn't exactly need a special reason to quit:

Personally, I don't think there had to be a looming scandal for Palin to make this odd decision. I think Sarah Barracuda has actually been Sarah Barraquitta, as a friend quips, for most of her life, moving through five stays at four different colleges to get her degree, leaving her oil and gas commission post after just more than a year, and now stepping down as Alaska governor because it's no longer fun.


Fair enough.

Anyway, GSTBM Palin's resignation announcement was followed by a letter from GSTBM Palin's lawyer threatening to sue the internet, or what looks pretty close to it, for defamation, and this is where we get back to the whole "no bad publicity" thing, because frankly I hadn't heard of half the things attorney Thomas Van Flein mentions in his press release. Okay, okay, I confess: I fell asleep sometime after the turkey video became an internet meme for a couple of weeks, I hadn't heard anything about "Housegate" and some kind of arena-dealy until Van Flein's memo came out.

Almost immediately afterwards, several unscrupulous people have asserted false and defamatory allegations that the "real" reasons for Governor Palin’s resignation stem from an alleged criminal investigation pertaining to the construction of the Wasilla Sports Complex. This canard was first floated by Democrat operatives in September 2008 during the national campaign and followed up by sympathetic Democratic writers.1. It was easily rebutted then as one of many fabrications about Sarah Palin. Just as power abhors a vacuum, modern journalism apparently abhors any type of due diligence and fact checking before scurrilous allegations are repeated as fact.

...

To the extent several websites, most notably liberal Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore, are now claiming as "fact" that Governor Palin resigned because she is "under federal investigation" for embezzlement or other criminal wrongdoing, we will be exploring legal options this week to address such defamation. This is to provide notice to Ms. Moore, and those who re-publish the defamation, such as Huffington Post, MSNBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post, that the Palins will not allow them to propagate defamatory material without answering to this in a court of law. The Alaska Constitution protects the right of free speech, while simultaneously holding those "responsible for the abuse of that right." Alaska Constitution Art. I, Sec. 5. http://ltgov.state.ak.us/constitution.php?section=1. These falsehoods abuse the right to free speech; continuing to publish these falsehoods of criminal activity is reckless, done without any regard for the truth, and is actionable.


Um. Okay, then. So some websites are reporting that GSTBM Palin is under Federal investigation, and her lawyer says she isn't under investigation, and this has something to do with GSTBM Palin is alleged by some, let's see if I understand this correctly, to have diverted supplies or funds from the building of a civic arena to the building of a new house? Which, again, the Palin camp denies. Must be some house. Does it have a concession stand? That might be a clue.

The larger question here is why Mr. Van Flein thinks it's a good idea to drag this bit of bait across the trail like this. I mean, not all liberals read Daily Kos and I assume not all Alaskans read Shannyn Moore, and frankly if MSNBC, the Times and the Washington Post did a story on this, I missed it (as I'm sure others must have). As for HuffPo, I mean, they'll publish anything; HuffPo is the reason Alec Baldwin thinks he has a political career and Jenny McCarthy has a TV talk show (Alec, here's a free hint: when the "three a.m. phone call" attack ad is going to feature you yelling at your little girl, it's time to give it up; seriously, man, loved you in The Departed and Beetlejuice remains an all-time-fave, but give it up).

There's two more things about defamation suits, which is why it's usually pretty funny when someone threatens one.

First of all, truth is a defense. Not only is truth a defense, but there's the Oscar Wilde thing. For those who have forgotten the story, Oscar Wilde's boyfriend's father, the Marquess of Queensberry (same one who helped establish rules for hitting people in the face, wotta guy) accused Wilde of being a sodomite, which was technically true; nonetheless, Wilde decided to sue for libel, and the Marquess brought in a lengthy procession of male prostitutes to testify that, er, yes, indeed Mr. Wilde had engaged in sodomy. Inevitably, not only did Wilde lose his suit, but based on the testimony produced by the defense, Wilde found himself prosecuted and imprisoned as a felon in Reading Gaol, wrecking his reputation and health and prematurely ending the career and life of one of Victorian Britain's greatest intellectuals, writers and humorists.

Leaving aside the fact that England's laws were barbaric (and the fact that the Marquess of Queensbury, by most accounts, was a cretinous douche), the real object lesson of Wilde is that he really did it to himself. He knew perfectly well what he was up to, and regardless of whether it should have been criminal, he knew perfectly well that it was. He had far more to lose by pressing his case than he could possibly have gained, and indeed lost everything he had for it. If there are skeletons in Sarah Palin's closet--and I have no idea whether there are or not--they're liable to come out during a defamation trial. And whether there are skeletons or not, what can she gain from such a trial? It's hard to think of anything at all.

The second thing about defamation cases is that if somebody's a public figure--and a Vice-Presidential nominee is indubitably a public figure--there's an "actual malice" standard. GSTBM Palin would have to prove that not only were these statements about the house and arena and the misappropriated whatevers untrue but that all the mean, nasty, horrible bloggers who said it was true knew it was all false and published anyway, or just didn't even give enough of a shit to do any checking whatsoever ("reckless disregard"). That's a high standard, a very high standard, and as long as somebody repeating the claims reasonably believed they were true, I don't see Palin winning.

Of course, here's the funniest thing: there is, as it turns out, another way to repeat the allegations against GSTBM Palin that doesn't really fall under either of those issues. Suppose Palin has an attorney who issues a press release repeating a series of claims and then debunking them, threatening to sue people for defamation over them: one might well quote from the press release, commenting on how one hadn't heard these allegations before now and making some observations on defamation law. Such a commentary wouldn't be defamatory, methinks, in spite of the repetition of allegations of wrongdoing set forth by the very attorney threatening to sue people for repeating the allegations of wrongdoing. Bit of a Zen puzzle, sort of, maybe.

And there you are.


5 comments:

vince Monday, July 6, 2009 at 3:56:00 PM EDT  

First, I love "GSTBM Palin". Friggin' brilliant!

Second, I wish she would just go away. I just don't think she will. I'm so sick of hearing how she's been picked on. Welcome to today's politics. It happens to candidates left and right (the Swiftboat nonsense and the "Obama's a socialist/has no birth certificate" crap comes immediately to mind), and if she can't deal with it, she needs to just find something that makes both her and her family happy out of the limelight. Yes, her children have been targets when they shouldn't have been, but she's the one who dragged her unwed, pregnant teenager on to the national stage to proudly show her "family values." That totally disgusted me.

If I were a Republican (and I'm not) I would want her gone, especially given her history of quitting and how polarizing and frankly uninformed she is. If I were a Democrat (and I'm not) I would not assume, as some have, that she's killed any possibility of running for president. And I would be prepared for her.

Despite what some have argued, she's no Richard Nixon. As much as I disliked Nixon in many ways, he had far more experience in public office without quitting any of the offices than Palin has when he did his "you're not going to have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore" speech. While she does, I think, have Nixon's paranoia, she doesn't have his political savy or his intelligence. And make no mistake, Nixon was smart. But he let his paranoia override his intelligence, and we all know where that got him.

The only good thing about her rambling "I'm quitting" speech Friday is that, for a moment, it drove a lot of the Micheal Jackson coverage into the background.

Jeri Monday, July 6, 2009 at 4:24:00 PM EDT  

I'm with Vince. I wish she'd just go away and the media would stop covering her. Maybe we could come up with an island, a sort of coventry, for people whose 15 minutes are well and truly over. Unlike Survivor, though, being voted ONTO the island is a public consensus action.

Random Michelle K Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 8:55:00 AM EDT  

Great. Next thing you know she'll be sitting up in a wheel barrel going, "I'm not dead yet!"

ntsc Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 10:15:00 AM EDT  

I think 'there is no such thing as bad publicity' came from the same guy who did 'This way the (giant?) egress'.

Tom Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 1:53:00 PM EDT  

I'm a bit picky about how and what people say or write sometimes, especially when it's poorly done in public. So I had to check TVF's letter to see if he actually wrote what you reported. It seems others have reported exactly the same quote as you did.

Here's the quote I am picking at:

The Alaska Constitution protects the right of free speech, while simultaneously holding those "responsible for the abuse of that right."

I think what he was trying to say was:

The Alaska Constitution protects the right of free speech, while simultaneously holding those [who abuse the right of free speech] "responsible for the abuse of that right."

In the original it almost sounds right. But it doesn't quite mean what someone might think it means. I've noticed a lot of that in politics, and mostly I think it indicates the speaker or writer doesn't really know what they are speaking or writing about, just almost. Close enough for horseshoes, hand grenades, and political BS.

Or maybe I'm just a bit too picky.

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