Friday, September 16, 2011

make that Sauvignon Blanc please

I was defamed recently via Twitter. Which makes it sound like a joke, not an actual legal issue. What happened was I got into a short but nasty exchange of Twitter posts with a couple of actors I had blogged about. A third actor, someone I hadn't spoken to in two years, after he ripped off my theatre group mailing list to get his own theatre group started, decided to chime in by making a malicious statement about me. Since he has virtually nothing to gain by libeling me, I expect that his primary objective was to curry favor with the other actors, who are young enough to be his sons. I guess there's no male-bonding quite as effective as ganging up to attack a woman who has gotten out of line - it even spans generations. But while the other two actors said some truly nasty things about me, what they said was opinion. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Everyone is not entitled to their own facts. What the third actor said was that I "guzzle Chardonnay" while working on this blog. And since I post to this blog pretty much on a daily basis, as evident by the dates on the blog posts, he was in effect claiming I'm an alcoholic.
In fact I'm a very moderate drinker, so not only was his statement malicious, it was false. Which is the definition of libel. In this case he committed what is known as "libel per se" which is defined by the Legal Dictionary as:
n. broadcast or written publication of a false statement about another which accuses him/her of a crime, immoral acts, inability to perform his/her profession, having a loathsome disease (like syphilis) or dishonesty in business. Such claims are considered so obviously harmful that malice need not be proved to obtain a judgment for "general damages," and not just specific losses.
Claiming that someone is an alcoholic is covered under this definition. I recounted this incident to my friend Bruce, another actor, whom I've known for twelve years, and he said it was ridiculous to make such a claim - he'd never even seen me drunk. Which makes sense - I haven't been seriously inebriated since high school. And I sometimes go weeks without drinking alcohol. Now it should be noted that I've never seen this libelous actor turn down a drink - certainly not at the legendary Penny Templeton Christmas party of 2008 - but I would never in a million years claim that he guzzled alcohol while performing a daily task. It would be unethical to do so. But if you're going to rip someone off why stop there? Why not then go on to insinuate the person is also an alcoholic? Certainly if you pal around with people who have no shame, no principles and no personal integrity, you're not going to pay any kind of social price for such behavior.
Twitter really does bring out the worst in many people. Banal people for example - their tweets are mind-bogglingly banal. Bitchy people, well... I was already becoming fed up with this libelous actor before he ripped me off, after following him on Twitter and realizing that a goodly number of his tweets were bitchy observations about the fashion choices of strangers on the street. I already suspected that this person was petty and shallow but his tweets only made it painfully obvious. So we would probably have had a parting of the ways sooner or later. But I can do without being ripped-off and libeled.
And in any case, not only is he wrong about my drinking frequency, I rarely drink Chardonnay - I much prefer Sauvignon Blanc.