Saturday Ethics Shots, 5/7/2022: The Law, “The View,” Hillary, And An Idiot (Or More)

Remember Walt Tuvell? He was the commenter from a few years ago that I banned for various (good) reasons, and he subsequently sued me in Massachusetts for “defamation.” I won the frivolous suit and the subsequent appeal (representing myself) at the cost of quite a bit of money and time, but with a renewed appreciation for how much the civil justice system is willing to bend over backwards to allow pro se litigants to have their day in court even when the justification for that day (or many days) is fanciful.

Well, last week the esteemed law professor Eugene Volokh discovered the case, and wrote at The Volokh Conspiracy:

I just came across a case that seriously considers the issue of whether (here, falsely) accusing someone of being an academic is defamatory. From Justice Christopher Barry-Smith in Tuvell v. Marshall (Mass. Super. Ct. 2017), a libel lawsuit that stemmed from a commenter banning controversy at the Ethics Alarms blog:

“Tuvell takes particular issue with Marshall’s statements in the Initial Post that the author of the email was an “academic” and that the “American Left” (which includes academics) “have gone completely off the ethics rails since November 8, 2016.” Even if Tuvell had been identified as the author of the email, these statements could not serve as a basis for a defamation claim. The term “academic,” even when used in this context, cannot be properly viewed as a statement that “would tend to hold the plaintiff up to scorn, hatred, ridicule or contempt, in the minds of any considerable and respectable segment in the community” and is therefore not defamatory. Phelan, 443 Mass. at 56 (emphasis added)….”

Good to know!

The complaint about my mistaken (BOY was it mistaken!) description of Walt as “an academic” was,remarkably, among the more legitimate of his defamation claims.

1. Speaking of Professor Volokh, he noted that the SCOTUS justice intimidation Jen Psaki proclaimed as no big deal is, in fact, illegal.under 18 U.S.C. § 1507:

  1. Whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or
  2. with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty,
  3. pickets or parades in or near a building housing a court of the United States, or
  4. in or near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge, juror, witness, or court officer, or
  5. with such intent uses any sound-truck or similar device or resorts to any other demonstration in or near any such building or residence,
  6. shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

2. I know I shouldn’t waste time highlighting the unethical garbage that goes on at “The View”—the Julie Principle applies—but this was special. ABC’s really, really dumb public affairs show highlighting the uninformed and biased opinions of women who have no business having access to a national platform to make viewers stupid had conservative Lindsey Granger as a guest host. This is typical: “The View” producers usually pick the dimmest conservatives available for this role—it’s like setting a medicore boxer up to fight some pug with a glass jaw, and yes, it’s unethical— but Granger at least showed some guts by asking Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), “What do you say to someone like me who worked two jobs for a decade to pay off all their student loans? Where do I sign up for reimbursement?” The unscrupulous former Cherokee completely ducked the question, because that’s the way demogues are when they are cornered. Warren answered a question that wasn’t asked, running out the clock with her explanation of how burdensome student loan debt was and why it was a proper use of taxpayer funds. Before Granger could ask, “Yes, but what do you say to someone like me who worked two jobs for a decade to pay off all their student loans? Where do I sign up for reimbursement?” the producers signaled that it was time to change the subject to abortion.

In that discussion, Granger proved herself worthy of a permanent co-host job by making this Joy Behar-worthy statement:

“Biden could use his executive order, he can use different powers, and that’s the same thing with this abortion issue. [B]ecause he can do anything, like end the filibuster. But why doesn’t Biden want to end the filibuster and push this through?…Biden doesn’t want to look crazy and lose his election seat and know that he’s in the midterms and not having anything to run on.”

Right. See what I mean about “The View” scraping the bottom of the barrel to find conservatives who will make the usual gang look, if not exactly well-informed and wise, at least minimally functional? This woman has a syndicated talk show! Where did I go wrong?

Finally, this charming note of racism: Sunny Hostin, a regular host, black like Granger, said that she regarded a black Republican as “an oxymoron.”

3. From the “Just how stupid do they think the American public is?” files, cross-filed in the “Just how stupid IS the public? files: In an interview with PBS, the bitter loser of the 2016 election replied in part  to a question about how the mid-term elections will go by saying…

“I think it depends upon, you know, number one, whether Democrats are willing to point out the extremism that has captured the Republican party.. this is about the rise of authoritarianism within our own country.This is a direct attack on our democracy…”

It really takes chutzpah for a Democrat to say that, but they keep saying it. Have the Republicans set up a government “board” to censor “misinformation”? Did Republicans excuse mobs protesting at the homes of Supreme Court Justices? Did Republican leaders of Congress defy the Separation of Powers by attacking the Supreme Court? Did Republicans impeach an elected President twice without legal justification simply because they had the votes? Has a Republican administration attempted to use illegitimate authority to require masking on public transportation?

More audacious yet, this is Hillary Clinton, whose campaign used false documents and lied about their origin to prompt a crippling investigation of the man who defeated her.

Wow.

4. Here is another example of the subtle ways reporters distort the issues to fit their own agendas. Reporter Peter Baker writes for the Times, ” If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as it appears poised to do, all 50 states will suddenly be free to set their own rules, leading to one America where access to an abortion is guaranteed and another where it is outlawed.”

Isn’t’ it more fair and accurate to say “one America where mothers can legally kill their unborn children before they have a chance at life, and another where such killing is forbidden by law except in special circumstances”?

5. Republican Robert Regan lost the special election to fill the 74th House District in Michigan, which the GOP has held for the past 30 years. Democratic candidate Carol Glanville defeated him handily. Good. This is the idiot who said that  he tells his daughters to “lie back and enjoy it” if “rape is inevitable.” That should have lost him the election by a landslide all by itself. He also claimed at various times that the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic were hoaxes.

At least the voters in one Michigan district proved that they are paying attention and don’t blindly vote for any candidate, however unqualified, just based on party loyalty.

12 thoughts on “Saturday Ethics Shots, 5/7/2022: The Law, “The View,” Hillary, And An Idiot (Or More)

  1. “Isn’t it more fair and accurate to say ‘one America where mothers can legally kill their unborn children before they have a chance at life, and another where such killing is forbidden by law except in special circumstances’?”
    No. No, it is not.

      • I second that question. Although I can see the argument that both are equally slanted, I’d argue they are not. “Abortion” is antiseptic and deliberately describes what’s being regulated by the law as a medical procedure. But the problem isn’t the medical procedure, but how it comes about and what its results are. The results as well as the agency are key to explaining the inherent conflict involved.

        • 4. I think that “permitted” would be more accurate word than “guaranteed,” but I give Baker credit for accurately explaining the consequences of Roe v. Wade being overturned. …Damn, that’s a low bar; a journalist giving people accurate information about how the government works is noteworthy now?

          I guess my point was… why are you criticizing him for using the phrases that normal people use on both sides of the issue? If he phrased it your way, that would be editorializing a moral judgment on the issue, which I’d argue journalists aren’t supposed to do, or at least shouldn’t do. (No, not even for actions everyone agrees are terrible.) Baker used words that accurately describe the situation. That’s not “distorting the issues” in my book. After all we’ve seen of the morons who prophesize some bizarre slippery slope of dominoes if SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade (which remind me of the wailing and gnashing of teeth against legalizing gay marriage, but in reverse), we find someone who explains what the actual consequences would be, and instead of praising him you say that he’s using words that fail to make the side you oppose look sufficiently bad. This surprises me.

          If you want a less clinical term for “abortion”, I suggest the phrase “aborting a pregnancy”. I really don’t think that “abortion” sounds antiseptic to most people, though, even the ones who choose to undergo the procedure. Sure, it’s a technical term, but it’s the one everyone uses to describe the act, so it can’t bypass the cognitive dissonance scale. Nobody regards it as emotionally neutral, any more than they regard “miscarriage” as emotionally neutral.

          An emotionally disconnected term might be “uterine evacuation.” That only works because it’s brand-new, though. (As far as I know, anyway. Original euphemism; do not steal!) If people ever started using that as the go-to phrase instead of a means to dance around the issue, it’d pick up some of the emotional weight of the reality it stands for. Does that make sense?

    • Please explain. The problem with the unrestricted abortion access position is that it dismisses the humanity of the child in thecwimb, in favor of a healthcare decision between a birthing person and their (?) healthcare providers*.

      jvb

      *Ed. Note: I had a hard time keeping a straight face as I wrote that comment.

  2. Murder is actually highly strategic population control or selective culling or excessive population management or unfortunate emotional discharge etc.

  3. Congratulations on your victory.
    1. Like all other crimes, obstruction of justice is only an applicable charge when, falsely, thrown at Republicans. The Democratic leadership and its deranged followers don’t care or even know what obstruction of justice is.
    2. I shake my head at conservative pundits all the time and wonder why I could do their jobs with my eyes closed. Of course, they’d play me off-stage like an Oscar winner with too many people to thank.
    3. The lack of self-awareness this takes is unrivaled.
    4. Fair and accurate? Surely you jest!
    5. Speaking of stupid Republicans. Can’t someone somewhere put together a list of Things That Will Make You Poison to the Party if You Say Them and distribute it widely?

  4. I am still sad that nothing I said to Walt made it into his claim.

    https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=2503631901049845067

    “This case, which arises out of a series of communications between the parties on and around the defendant Jack Marshall’s Internet blog,[1] “Ethics Alarms,” requires us to review the dismissal of the plaintiff Walter Tuvell’s defamation claims against Marshall. To the extent that we can parse them from his briefing,[2] Tuvell’s legal arguments are that (1) the motion judge applied an incorrect standard, and (2) the judge incorrectly applied the law to the allegations in Tuvell’s complaint.[3] For the reasons discussed, we affirm.”

    In…ter….est…ing…. “To the extent that we can parse” […] [2]

    [2]: “Tuvell’s arguments on appeal are difficult to understand and do not satisfy the requirements of Mass. R. A. P. 16, as appearing in 481 Mass. 1628 (2019). Nonetheless, we have carefully reviewed his submissions and address those arguments that we can discern.”

    Also:

    “An allegedly defamatory statement must be assessed in context, and not as isolated words or phrases.[5]”

    [5]: “A point that Tuvell, whose argument on appeal includes criticism of the motion judge’s failure to address individually each of the statements he considers to be defamatory, overlooks.”

    I know you think the court bent over backwards for Walt as a pro se litigant, but they weren’t afraid of throwing some serious shade. The rulings are a legit joy to read. Still sorry you had to go through it.

    • Thanks. As I may have mentioned, the trial judge signaled that Walt was full of it when, after Walt’s long and incoherent argument, the judge asked me to keep my rebuttal to a minute.

      I enjoyed the appellate opinion. Still, reading and answering Walt’s submissions took many hours, and while I love going back to Boston, my motion for court costs and travel were denied.

      And I even said, “Now don’t sue me, Walk—this is just my opinion!”

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