Get sexually harassed, get fired.
October 16, 2004 3:45 AM   Subscribe

Get sexually harassed, get fired. Fox News is pushing to fire Andrea Mackris. The firing will not be "in retaliation for her accusations about the show's host." Now that's Fair and Balanced! How is this even legal?
posted by skallas (111 comments total)

 
Well, it’d be more accurate to say “allege sexual harassment and get fired”. But yeah, I can’t really imagine how that is justifiable.
posted by ed\26h at 5:06 AM on October 16, 2004


Stop expecting moral conduct from republicans. Just stop. Money and power dictate the terms of moral relativism.
posted by fleener at 5:20 AM on October 16, 2004


Hey skallas, an allegation of sexual harrassment doesn't mean the accused is guilty.

Very very bad FPP.
posted by SpaceCadet at 5:31 AM on October 16, 2004


wants a judge to declare the canning isn't retribution.

"Look, I realize I raped you, but I'd like you to tell everyone it was wonderful. And I'm huuuuge."
posted by yerfatma at 5:36 AM on October 16, 2004


Okay. She's being fired for making the accusation. This is just as wrong. If it was proven that this was a false accusation, that would be a different story.
posted by eriko at 5:36 AM on October 16, 2004


Stop expecting moral conduct from republicans.

Quite aside from the fact that this statement is grossly prejudiced, it’s directly contradicted by “Money and power dictate the terms of moral relativism” – since if you accept the truth of moral relativism you cannot rely on an objective idea of morality to compare it against.
posted by ed\26h at 5:36 AM on October 16, 2004


Stop expecting Republicans to actually adhere to the moral conduct that they espouse.
posted by sic at 5:41 AM on October 16, 2004


Well, that successfully negates the contradiction – now it’s just grossly prejudiced.
posted by ed\26h at 5:46 AM on October 16, 2004


> an allegation of sexual harrassment doesn't mean the accused is guilty.

Fine. So are we saying that its okay to fire her for making the accusation? Same argument, really.
posted by skallas at 5:48 AM on October 16, 2004


skallas, I just pointed out your FPP is really bad, because you made the mistake of judging somebody as guilty, when you should know everyone is innocent until proven guilty. As you say, that's as bad as firing someone for making an accusation.
posted by SpaceCadet at 5:55 AM on October 16, 2004


That’s very clearly not what anyone was saying. What they were saying is that you phrased your post to suggest this guy is certainly guilty, when he has merely been accused.
posted by ed\26h at 5:55 AM on October 16, 2004


Nice way to avoid the issue, guys. Matt feel free to delete this or add the word "alleged."
posted by skallas at 5:59 AM on October 16, 2004


If you had accepted that your original statement was misleading to begin with, instead of asserting that if we disagree with it we must consequentially be asserting some obviously distorted position, then we wouldn’t had to have drifted so far from the main issue. Besides, my first post in this thread contained – “But yeah, I can’t really imagine how that is justifiable.” So quite how I’m avoiding this issue is unapparent.
posted by ed\26h at 6:06 AM on October 16, 2004


Nice way to avoid the issue, guys. Matt feel free to delete this or add the word "alleged."

Well, by the wording of your FPP, you clearly want an Angry Mob to hunt down and burn a witch, rather than have a discussion about it.

In the UK, we have libel laws against such slack assumptions of guilt. It's about time the US had the same.
posted by SpaceCadet at 6:08 AM on October 16, 2004


Stop expecting Republicans to actually adhere to the moral conduct that they espouse.

Stop expecting Republicans Americans pretty much anyone to actually adhere to the moral conduct that they espouse.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:09 AM on October 16, 2004


I call bs on this woman.

Either she put up with way too much for way too long or it is all fabricated. Makes it bad for the rest of us. If OReilly is a sleazeball, call him out THE FIRST TIME.
posted by konolia at 6:20 AM on October 16, 2004


I’m not sure I like that one bit.
posted by ed\26h at 6:24 AM on October 16, 2004


While we're at it, the linked article isn't particularly well-written.

Andrea Mackris, 33, said she was served legal papers about her termination by a man lying in wait for her at her Manhattan apartment building.

Lying in wait? Firing someone over alleging sexual harassment is very serious, and it deserves serious coverage. Republicans-are-evil hysterics only make fox look more reasonable by comparison.
posted by Tlogmer at 6:24 AM on October 16, 2004


she put up with way too much for way too long

Or she wanted to make sure she had an iron-clad case before taking on one of the most powerful men at her workplace.

Cops do this all the time - they don't bust a major drug dealer the first time he sells a joint. They wait until he's got 10 kilos of heroin in his trunk.
posted by bashos_frog at 6:34 AM on October 16, 2004


In their countersuit, O'Reilly and Fox News say Mackris and her lawyer tried to extort $60 million

The use of word "extort" isn't casual I hope, it's a pretting damning accusation and both O'Reilly and Fox will have to answer for this accusation.

If my memory serves, it may become a little-scale lewinskigate in which the defendant asks for tapes to appear (assuming she's bluffing) and ...opppps the tape do appear ! (like the infamous lewinski dress). Now that would pretty much have repercussion on O'Reilly career.

That or she may have learned his boss lessons too well :)
posted by elpapacito at 6:42 AM on October 16, 2004


Well, that successfully negates the contradiction – now it’s just grossly prejudiced.

And yet, borne out by so many people's experience....
posted by lodurr at 6:42 AM on October 16, 2004


konolia, a lot of women put up with way to much for way too long. That doesn't give you the right to call BS on them. If the allegations are true then she told him to stop. In no concievable way can it be construed as her fault. Because when O'Reilly was told to stop he should, you know, stop.
posted by substrate at 6:45 AM on October 16, 2004


And yet, borne out by so many people's experience....

I’m sure quite a few people have experience of “many black criminals” – but I’m not sure I’d be happy inferring anything conclusive from that either.
posted by ed\26h at 6:46 AM on October 16, 2004


In the UK, we have libel laws against such slack assumptions of guilt. It's about time the US had the same.

Why in the world would we want that? Seriously. With a legalistic standard of "guilt" as your measure for what you can say, there are an awful lot of things that must go unsaid. Even if everyone knows they're true -- they may be legalistically "false."

We defend our rights for free speech so zealously in part because we know that laws defending ideas like "decency" can have the effect of muzzling us when we want to point out things that we ought to be able to point out.
posted by lodurr at 6:48 AM on October 16, 2004


elpapacito, even if tapes do come out it won't necessarily have repurcussions on O'Reilly's career. I work with people who listen to Limbaugh and O'Reilly religiously. We all just went through harassment training (which I agree is a waste of time - My rules on harassment: Don't be a dumbass) and somebody who I respect for immensely for their technical abilities brought up the O'Reilly case.

His argument was that everybody is in charge of their own treatment, not management, not human resources and not the courts. I pressed him on this and he flat out said that she should've just quit and kept shut up, that in a just world, even if the allegations are true that HER career will be over. The two other people in the room with me agreed with him. I said they were fucking lunatics (now will they bring me up to human resources for using intolerant language?)

Fox is going to do whatever is best for their bottom line. If, like my co-workers, he gets support he'll stay on board. If people ditch his show then he'll get the axe. In my neck of the woods they'll rally behind him.
posted by substrate at 6:50 AM on October 16, 2004


substrate, you're on track here, I think: Anything we see Fox doing here, they're doing tactically. If they're doing this, they think they can get away with it legally, and I assume they have the cash to hire really good lawyers. IANAL, but the pre-emptive "extortion" suit may be their cover on this. Too, her burden of proof (for wrongful termination) will depend pretty heavily on the judge who hears the case; the most charitable speculation is that the Fox lawyers see that as a crap shoot. There are quite plausible and far less charitable speculations that I could make...

O'Reilly's revenge fantasies aside, they never wanted Franken and recognized the promotional value to Fox of his book ("there's no such thing as bad publicity", at least, not so bad that somebody can't take advantage of it); this is different. This genuinely threatens one of their high-profile properties, and they'll fight for it as hard as they think they can without spoiling it.

And to that point, they can weather a pretty hard fight. O'Reilly's core constituency is not really rational about their devotion. Even if this were to go to court (which, if it does, will be a long time from now), his fans might still follow him.
posted by lodurr at 7:02 AM on October 16, 2004


With a legalistic standard of "guilt" as your measure for what you can say, there are an awful lot of things that must go unsaid. Even if everyone knows they're true -- they may be legalistically "false."

It seems you are relying on the law being absolutely correct in granting people innocence when making statements assuming guilt precisely because it can be flawed when it comes to deciding where guilt is actually applicable. If you accept that a concept can be flawed in it’s conclusions it doesn’t seem wise to absolutely rely on those same conclusions elsewhere.
posted by ed\26h at 7:09 AM on October 16, 2004


SpaceCadet is the new Seth.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:15 AM on October 16, 2004


O'Reilly doesn't even deny the sexual harassment charges.
He's just also suing for extortion. I can't believe that anyone who read that complaint wouldn't be totally disgusted by him. He talks about having sex with hot italian chicks on his way to meet the Pope, because his wife is pregnant. I mean, maybe they have an open marriage...

She has a really good lawyer, too.

There's nothing to call bullshit on. The complaint, on its face is really damning, and without O'Reilly's denial- my god. She was sexually harassed at work, she had just left a job, so she couldn't very well look for a new one. She had a good job, was promoted to producer or whatever, and she was being sexually harassed by her boss. She told him no several times, etc. Do you think there shouldn't be sexual harassment laws? Because this seems like a seriously clear cut case. A lot of people need jobs, and a career, or do you call bullshit on that too?

oh, and ed/26h - the law can't presume guilt - but whenever we look at what we think are facts, and decide something for ourselves we are making judgments. I think she was sexually harassed - see that doesn't fine O'reilly - or put him in jail. It's me talking, and I can do that.
posted by goneill at 7:20 AM on October 16, 2004


I call bs on this woman.
How very Christian of you, Konolia.
Either she put up with way too much for way too long or it is all fabricated.
Of course, those are the only two possible explanations. Let me sum up that sentence for everyone else. She's either a liar or it's the victims fault.
Makes it bad for the rest of us.
Absurd reductions on your part thankfully have no effect on how her accusations effect anyone. You've been reading from the Lynne Cheney book of "Cheap and Tawdry Spin", haven't you?
If OReilly is a sleazeball, call him out THE FIRST TIME.
You might be better off anonymously seeking the advice of your state's Attorney General's office before outing yourself and the person you are accusing to your employer. If you are more fortunate, hiring a private lawyer may work in your benefit. Unless you have incontroverible proof and bullet proof witnesses, outting yourself to your employer after the first incident is tantamount to firing yourself.

If you think even with a guilty conviction this will have any long term effect on O'Reilly, you've obviously missed out on Bill Clinton and Rush Limbough. Those who appreciated them before will brush over that which they have admitted to publically. Those who did not will point to their admission as a confirmation of their prejudices.
posted by sequential at 7:27 AM on October 16, 2004


by the wording of your FPP, you clearly want an Angry Mob to hunt down and burn a witch

The witch in this case is Fox News. I damn well want it to be (metaphorically) hunted down and burned, as I would any organization of its size pulling off this kind of stunt. A company that fires a whistleblower while an investigation is in progress deserves all the backlash it can get. The proper way for Fox News to act in this situation would be to transfer her to an unrelated task until the end of the investigation.
posted by azazello at 7:34 AM on October 16, 2004


>She's either a liar or it's the victims fault.

Konolia knows women have their place.
posted by skallas at 7:43 AM on October 16, 2004


The law can't presume guilt - but whenever we look at what we think are facts, and decide something for ourselves we are making judgments. I think she was sexually harassed - see that doesn't fine O'reilly - or put him in jail. It's me talking, and I can do that.

You have perhaps read my last post incorrectly but at no point did I suggest the law could assume guilt. The process you describe is one whereby an arbitrary conclusion is arrived at. While I agree that this in itself is unlikely the harm the accused, announcing that this is an absolute truth could well do.

The witch in this case is Fox News. I damn well want it to be (metaphorically) hunted down and burned, as I would any organization of its size pulling off this kind of stunt. A company that fires a whistleblower while an investigation is in progress deserves all the backlash it can get.

I think, in actual fact, the metaphorical witch refers to Bill O'Reilly. Either way – you are begging the question – relying on the known truth of an accusation (not just the one of sexual harassment, but also the one of the firing for the alleged reason) as justification for application of punishment when the that accusation being known to be true or not is precisely what is in question.
posted by ed\26h at 7:54 AM on October 16, 2004


Why in the world would we want that? Seriously. With a legalistic standard of "guilt" as your measure for what you can say, there are an awful lot of things that must go unsaid. Even if everyone knows they're true -- they may be legalistically "false."

We defend our rights for free speech so zealously in part because we know that laws defending ideas like "decency" can have the effect of muzzling us when we want to point out things that we ought to be able to point out.


lodurr, I really don't understand any of that. Libel laws do not prevent people from making accusations.

Are you suggesting that we should be allowed to slander someone? Ruin their reputation with impunity? Shouldn't people be pretected from this? You sense of justice seems to preclude certain groups of people.

Whenever there is a rape or sexual harrassment accusation made against somebody who is in the mainstream media, the MeFi crowd assume guilt. If the accused turns out to be innocent (as proven in a court of law), it's a non-news event here. It just says more about people's prejudices here than anything else.

SpaceCadet is the new Seth.

Hey c'mon.....there's no need to insult Seth.
posted by SpaceCadet at 8:01 AM on October 16, 2004


skallas, I just pointed out your FPP is really bad, because you made the mistake of judging somebody as guilty, when you should know everyone is innocent until proven guilty

It's not a "mistake". Skallas isn't the US judicial system, asshat. He can judge guilty whomever he wants.
posted by jpoulos at 8:01 AM on October 16, 2004


The witch in this case is Fox News. I damn well want it to be (metaphorically) hunted down and burned, as I would any organization of its size pulling off this kind of stunt. A company that fires a whistleblower while an investigation is in progress deserves all the backlash it can get. The proper way for Fox News to act in this situation would be to transfer her to an unrelated task until the end of the investigation.

Whistleblower? Maybe she's a liar. Who knows? You don't know, and neither does anyone here. When you make assumptions, you can turn anyone into a witch that deserves burning, particularly when your assumptions are based on what you want to be true.
posted by SpaceCadet at 8:05 AM on October 16, 2004


It's not a "mistake". Skallas isn't the US judicial system, asshat. He can judge guilty whomever he wants.

Well, what we have there is Skallas intentionally making an arbitrary and prejudicial statement. I’m not sure that’s any better to be honest with you and certainly doesn’t seem like decent front-page practice. Oh, and please try and remain civil and adult.
posted by ed\26h at 8:07 AM on October 16, 2004


It's not a "mistake". Skallas isn't the US judicial system, asshat. He can judge guilty whomever he wants.

So it is an OpinionFilter FPP! skallas should qualify his opinions with "I think..." or "It seems to me...." or something else to let us know it is his opinion. Not just come out with it as bold fact.
posted by SpaceCadet at 8:09 AM on October 16, 2004


Either she put up with way too much for way too long or it is all fabricated. Makes it bad for the rest of us. If OReilly is a sleazeball, call him out THE FIRST TIME.

total bullshit.

you are ignoring the fact that this is a multibillion dollar corporation with a very public face, and this is a huge star with money, power and wealth and a tremendous, fawning audience.

mackris story and action are entirely plausible, and incredibly prescient: to have behaved as if this were NOT bill o'reilly, to have acted as if she was merely secretary to some mid-level horndog in some small business somewhere, would have guaranteed the loss of her career and the sanitization of the perpretrators actions. the public would never have heard a peep of this.

instead, she rather brilliantly recognized that her career at FOX, perhaps even in television itself, was in effect dead from the moment she cringed at his schoolboy suggestions. the ONLY effective course of action open to her was to quietly negotiate a lifetime of lost wage from a position of strength.

mackris is a smart, capable, savvy woman who understands how men, especially wealthy, powerful men fight. konolia writes her off for failing to be a good doormat.
posted by quonsar at 8:10 AM on October 16, 2004 [6 favorites]


In fact, Bill O'Reilly and Fox News don't say she's lying. They answered with a claim for extortion. God, there's not even a modicum of a defense here. There's just an alternative claim. The burden is at least on him to say she's lying, and he doesn't bother, why, and bear with me while I display my wild deductive reasoning skills... because she isn't.

There's no witch hunt here, and fuck you for defending someone whos been abusing women by comparing it to centuries of torture of women.
posted by goneill at 8:13 AM on October 16, 2004


Who has been abusing women by comparing abuse of women to centuries of the torture of women? And what does that actually mean?

Quonsar: That, indeed, is one set of circumstances that could successfully account for the evidence.
posted by ed\26h at 8:21 AM on October 16, 2004


Ed\26h, I have no idea what your first sentence means.

"Witch hunts" in Europe and North America, disproportionately subjected women, especially women property-owners and merchants, to harassment, confiscation of property, torture, and execution. I believe that goneill was suggesting that he/she finds the suggestion that Bill O'Reilly is a victim of a "witch hunt" painfully ironic given the circumstances.

And here's the thing: even if Mackris's allegation is completely spurious from start to finish, it is hideously bad employment law practice for Fox to fire her before the claim has been litigated. It makes one wonder what their lawyers are smoking.

As for konolia's statement--let me say, yet again, let's suppose that she was sleazy and opportunistic and let O'Reilly ramble on with his stupid and obscene fantasies for the benefit of her tape recorder. It still wouldn't make what he did legal.

It's just as illegal to sexually harass a sleazy, opportunistic employee as it is to sexually harass an innocent, virginal employee.

posted by Sidhedevil at 8:34 AM on October 16, 2004


However, I do think that Number One should edit the FPP to read "Allege sexual harassment, get fired" because that would be more accurate.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:36 AM on October 16, 2004


>God, there's not even a modicum of a defense here.

Actually they do have a defense: Conspiracy theories:
O'Reilly's lawsuit also suggests Mackris' suit is politically motivated. It says her lawyer is a supporter of Democrats and sees conservative Fox and O'Reilly as the enemy.
That's right. Democrats are doing this. That's their best defense.
posted by skallas at 8:42 AM on October 16, 2004


"Stop expecting moral conduct from republicans moral relativists." ed/26h - how about that ?

I agree that the statement was unfair - there are moral relativists everywhere on the political spectrum. But I think it's apt to say that many politicians who cloak themselves in religious rhetoric are secretly moral relativists and that - since Republicans have recently been doing this far more than Democrats it is likely that more Republicans are moral relativists.

There's evidence aplenty for that hypothesis - as in the shifting (24 now ? 25 ?) rationals put forth by the Bush Administration for the invasion of Iraq.

"Quite aside from the fact that this statement is grossly prejudiced, it’s directly contradicted by “Money and power dictate the terms of moral relativism” – since if you accept the truth of moral relativism you cannot rely on an objective idea of morality to compare it against."

Well, that's true, but I don't know ANYONE who accepts the "truth" of moral relativism. Such people do exist, yes. Society usually calls them - whenever their acts are brought to light through legal prosecution or otherwise - sociopaths.

I don't accept moral relativism and - unless fleener is a moral relativist (which is very unlikely - If he was one, why would he bother with this discourse unless he were being paid for his participation?) - I don't think there would be any logical inconsistency in his statement.

But - on a little reflection - true moral relativists ( moderately rare beasts ) would actually be able to identify other true relativists quite easily :

There would be little consistency to the behavior patterns of relativists - except for one overall determining imperative ; they would tend to (except insofar as dictated by the need for "protective coloration", to avoid being recognized by wider society as sociopathic) be motivated towards personal gain.

So their behavior patterns - always shifting and guided by the shifting winds of the profitable, over time - would show little consistency. The randomness of their behavior patterns would betray their overall amorality.

There would likely be a higher number of amoral ( sociopathic ) personality types in business : I'm reminded of J.P. Morgan's establishment of his fortune - during the Civil War, Morgan bought a quantity of rifles known to be defective and resold them, at an immense profit, to the Union Army as new.

In literature, Dostoevksy's Raskolnikoff comes to mine as a classically amoral figure, but Mervyn Peake's "Steerpike" - from the Ghormenghast Trilogy - is for me a much more vividly drawn sociopath.

___________________________

""Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit." - Jesus Christ, from Matthew 7:15
posted by troutfishing at 8:47 AM on October 16, 2004


ed/26th & Space Cadet,

skallas already said mea culpa, he already said "ok, it should have said alleged", but you can't stop tsk - tsk - tsk-ing. You can't stop derailing this thread. You can't stop lecturing. Congratulations on ruining this thread. Please take it to Meta next time, or I'll bring it up there as a disruptive pattern.

Back to the subject at hand, I can't believe Fox would fire a woman for making a sexual harrassment claim. It's surreal, and I wonder whether the executive that ordered this to happen (yep, making an assumption), really understands how incredibly strong the laws protecting women who make these claims are.
posted by xammerboy at 8:49 AM on October 16, 2004


All this arguing over an infotainment channel and two of its characters/stars/celebrities/what-have-you. For all any of us know, the whole thing is a huge publicity stunt.

Further, 'for all any of us know', none of us know the full story. ;-P
posted by mischief at 8:50 AM on October 16, 2004


I think there is more to this story than has yet been revealed. I don't doubt that some or all of the alleged incidents took place, but it seems likely that there may be more details to come.
If the transcripts we got to read courtesy of the smoking gun are authentic, then I know way more about Bill O'rielly then I am comfortable with.
I have yet to read anywhere that she ever asked him to stop. Has anyone else? Probably safe to assume that if she didn't like his conduct that she did, but, never safe to make assumptions.
What about the fact that she left Fox and went to CNN? If she had file then, it would have looked more plausible I would think. To return to Fox, the alleged site of the abuse, kind of confuses things.

Anyhoo, no doubt there is more than meets the eye here, and NO DOUBT we are going to get to read about it.

And stop ragging in SpaceCadet just because he won't jump on your bandwagon.

Metfilter: Agree or be called names
posted by a3matrix at 8:50 AM on October 16, 2004


Oh - and I forgot to mention this : as much or more, perhaps, than in business, politics would likely be chock full of moral relativists.
_________________

2 Pet 2:1 [NIV] "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves."
posted by troutfishing at 8:54 AM on October 16, 2004


thanks sidhedevil - i was too enraged to construct a sentence.

But, a3matrix - i thought that it said many times in the complaint that she asked him to stop.

She said that the harassment wasn't egregious until she returned to Fox...
posted by goneill at 8:55 AM on October 16, 2004


For all any of us know, the whole thing is a huge publicity stunt.

That would be fucking brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that I doubt any media exec on the planet would be capable of allowing it. Nevertheless, I damn well pray that it's a stunt. That would rock.
posted by aramaic at 8:55 AM on October 16, 2004


So it is an OpinionFilter FPP! skallas should qualify his opinions with "I think..." or "It seems to me...." or something else to let us know it is his opinion. Not just come out with it as bold fact.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:16 AM on October 16, 2004


I have yet to read anywhere that she ever asked him to stop. Has anyone else?

It doesn't matter whether or not she told him to stop. To paraphrase Sidhedevil, it's just as illegal to harass an employee who suffers in silence as it is to harass an employee who enthusiastically tells you to stop calling her and beating off.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:22 AM on October 16, 2004


Metafilter: Because every thread dissolves into a discussion of itself.
posted by iamck at 9:24 AM on October 16, 2004


I would just like to take this quiet moment to point out that british libel laws are absolutely absurd, and not only heavily favor the defense (10-to-1), they cost the society in general it's ability to use common sense.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:26 AM on October 16, 2004


I'm holding out that maybe those legal documents that were filed contain some very good reasons for why this firing shouldn't be considered "retribution." The alternative--that they would simultaneously acknowledge and flagrantly violate the law--is a complete mind-bender.

I can't imagine why they didn't wait until they had a response from the judge regarding the retaliatory firing issue before firing her. Sounds like someone upstairs at Fox was completely ignorant in handling sexual harassment cases and got trigger happy with the terminate button, and now their legal team is scrambling to cover their collective asses while their publicity department desperately hurls smears like "politically motivated" to deflect attention from their own ham-fisted handling of the situation. If this is true, the sheer incompetence of these politicos is simply breathtaking.
posted by DaShiv at 9:37 AM on October 16, 2004


"I damn well pray that it's a stunt."

The problem is you would never know it. However, you can bet that Fox News is milking this for all its marketing worth among O'Reilly's faithful followers.

As much as I love a good soap opera, I will be giving this one a pass.
posted by mischief at 9:47 AM on October 16, 2004


I can't imagine why they didn't wait until they had a response from the judge regarding the retaliatory firing issue before firing her.

i can't imagine where you got the idea she's already been fired.

read. comprehend.
posted by quonsar at 9:48 AM on October 16, 2004


Skallas already said mea culpa, he already said "ok, it should have said alleged", but you can't stop tsk - tsk - tsk-ing. You can't stop derailing this thread.

In fact, they only times I have made further arguments against skallas’s assumptions of guilt are when others have raised points which attempt to defend them.

I don't accept moral relativism. […] I don't think there would be any logical inconsistency in his statement.

Well of course if you dismiss the idea that he employs moral relativism you can escape the contradiction but the fact that he makes a direct reference to it in his post seems to suggest he does – “money and power dictate the terms of moral relativism.” If he is referring to something he believes to be false then his statement means nothing at all.

I believe that goneill was suggesting that he/she finds the suggestion that Bill O'Reilly is a victim of a "witch hunt" painfully ironic given the circumstances.

So you simply think it was use of the term “witch hunt” that amounts to an abuse of women? And also, who is the person committing this apparent abuse that goniel is suggesting is “being defended”?

That's right. Democrats are doing this. That's their best defense.

Simply because the accused has not yet released a defense against the accusation it doesn’t follow that a weak conspiracy theory is thier best defense.
posted by ed\26h at 9:51 AM on October 16, 2004


Actually, ROU, it's not. All sexual harassment codes I'm aware of have a "first-pass" clause, where the first instance, if met without some kind of negative response, is not actionable. This clearly does not apply in this case, however.
posted by Snyder at 9:58 AM on October 16, 2004


Trout - I forgot, at the risk of further derailment: I’m not sure I’d say old Rodion was amoral or a moral relativist. I got the impression he was quasi-utilitarian. I quite liked the guy!
posted by ed\26h at 10:24 AM on October 16, 2004


"Well of course if you dismiss the idea that he employs moral relativism you can escape the contradiction but the fact that he makes a direct reference to it in his post seems to suggest he does" - ed, you seem to be saying that no one who operates within a moral context can discuss (and be logically consistent) amoral-ism or moral relativism.

Wouldn't that claim imply that both you and I either 1) logically inconsistent or 2) moral relativists ?

1) Reads Metafilter

2) Discovers innate moral relativism - there is no God! All is permitted!

3) $ Profit ! Murder !
posted by troutfishing at 10:36 AM on October 16, 2004


I don’t really get that – can you make it a bit simpler for me?
posted by ed\26h at 10:47 AM on October 16, 2004


Of course, the question of how long she "put up with it" is irrelevant to the question of whether sexual harassment actually took place. The entire reason for harm behind the "hostile environment" standard is that you should not be forced into a position of choosing between putting up with harassment or leaving your job. Perhaps one of the more damning parts of the complaint is that the complaint claims she did tell O'Reilly to knock it off, and O'Reilly's alleged response was to state that no woman would dare complain because he had the power to drag their life through the mud. So if the claims are true, it looks like that the lawsuit is a last attempt to settle the issue.

Of course, the filed complaint could be BS. There is always that risk. But there certainly seems to be enough there that the claims should be decided by a court.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:10 AM on October 16, 2004


xammerboy, well said and thanks.

To me the most damning thing about O'Reilly is that he hasn't denied it.

Beyond that it turns into a bean counting strategy session. Fox will stick by him until he becomes a liability and then O'Reilly will go somewhere else and take however many millions of people who are somehow hypnotized into believing him.

The fact that Fox is firing her seems pretty outrageous without more details. The bulldog, attacking is the best defense, approach from O'Reilly was probably expected.

I think I'm going to go sit with mischief and sit this one out.
posted by fenriq at 11:12 AM on October 16, 2004


IM HAVING A HEARTATTACK!
posted by Satapher at 11:55 AM on October 16, 2004


Who cares? She is going to end up with a cool $60 million or so. All for just hearing some stupid crap over the telephone. We should all be so lucky as to be "sexually harassed." It's the new American dream.
posted by xmutex at 12:22 PM on October 16, 2004


Either she put up with way too much for way too long or it is all fabricated. Makes it bad for the rest of us.

I'm quite curious: who is this "rest of us"? Republicans? Women? Republican women? Abused women? Women who challenge bullies? Who?

Many is the time lately, konolia, that I feel you should have a deep-rooted empathy for those who wear the burqa. Women in their place and all that guff.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:25 PM on October 16, 2004



Either she put up with way too much for way too long or it is all fabricated. Makes it bad for the rest of us. If OReilly is a sleazeball, call him out THE FIRST TIME.


Ok, common sense alert: they're attempting to fire her even though she seems to have taped conversations. What do you think would have happened if she'd gone to them the first time with no evidence? Seriously, your conclusion makes zero sense.

Well, that successfully negates the contradiction – now it’s just grossly prejudiced.

For the sake of argument, there's nothing wrong with being grossly prejudiced against a group of people whose only commonality is a set of chosen beliefs. I'm not suggesting I agree with the assertion, but when someone says "all skinheads are morons" I tend to agree, despite the fact that I may, in fact, be wrong. Again, not to suggest republicans are the same as skinheads, but you can create an analogy with any number of ideologically-based groups.
posted by The God Complex at 12:26 PM on October 16, 2004




Who cares? She is going to end up with a cool $60 million or so. All for just hearing some stupid crap over the telephone. We should all be so lucky as to be "sexually harassed." It's the new American dream.


There is no way she'll get that much in a settlement. My guess is they aimed high for the publicity of it (hey, he tried to screw her, now it's her turn) and that if they settle or go to court the settlement will be substantially less.
posted by The God Complex at 12:31 PM on October 16, 2004


We should all be so lucky as to be "sexually harassed." It's the new American dream.

Wonder if that sick feeling in her stomach and the sense of dirtiness she can't wash off every time she goes to work for the rest of her life is worth $60 million.
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:31 PM on October 16, 2004


There's no way she'll be getting 60M, you don't get that when they cut off the wrong leg. The lawyers just mentioned that number as a ballpark of how much he is worth to Fox.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:39 PM on October 16, 2004


It seems you are relying on the law being absolutely correct in granting people innocence...

No. I'm accepting that it's an imperfect world. That's why civil law exists.
posted by lodurr at 1:00 PM on October 16, 2004


Wonder if that sick feeling in her stomach and the sense of dirtiness she can't wash off every time she goes to work for the rest of her life is worth $60 million.

Haha! That's a joke, right?
posted by xmutex at 1:30 PM on October 16, 2004


Wait, this "$60 million" figure doesn't have any basis in fact except that O'Reilly's suit claims that that was what Mackris's attorney asked for as a settlement. We don't even know that that's documented in any way, do we?

If, indeed, she does get a financial settlement from Fox--either voluntary or court-ordered--it will be nowhere near $60 million.

Xmutex, I swear to God that you would have to pay me at least $60 million to hear Bill O'Reilly talk about sex. And falafel.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:21 PM on October 16, 2004


Haha! That's a joke, right?

Haha! That's a joke, right?
posted by lodurr at 2:29 PM on October 16, 2004


"she put up with way too much for way too long"

I'm with you konolia! That bitch deserved it! Now she should just shut up and stroke the falafel.
posted by 2sheets at 3:48 PM on October 16, 2004


Wonder if that sick feeling in her stomach and the sense of dirtiness she can't wash off every time she goes to work for the rest of her life is worth $60 million.

Why is she asking for $60 million anyway? She feels the sense of dirtiness she can't wash off is worth that much? Why ask for so much, if it won't wash the feeling off anyway?

Let's wait for the court case. Let's judge then. Otherwise, all of your opinions are worth jackshit. Especially you skallas, with your OpinionFilter crapola.
posted by SpaceCadet at 4:17 PM on October 16, 2004


SpaceCadet, your opinion is worth less than jackshit. Anyone who thinks that the UK's libel laws are superior to the US's must have a suppurating pumpkin where his brain should be. (You don't have to take my word for it--read Auberon Waugh on the Jeremy Thorpe matter for a completely devastating analysis of how the UK libel laws are a total outrage.)

Also, we don't generally care for the kind of slanging match that you and I are now engaged in here on MeFi. So kindly cease and desist. You have already showed your ass to far too many people here.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:26 PM on October 16, 2004


You seem to be going off the deep end a lot lately, SpaceCadet. What's up with that?
posted by five fresh fish at 4:51 PM on October 16, 2004


Well, his name is SpaceCadet.
posted by xmutex at 4:58 PM on October 16, 2004


There are some British laws that are way better than US ones but libel certainly ain't one of 'em...
posted by i_cola at 4:59 PM on October 16, 2004


Need some falafel?
posted by Dukebloo at 5:24 PM on October 16, 2004


im with xmute, stop harrassing cows; dont drink milk!
posted by Satapher at 5:27 PM on October 16, 2004


I'm not saying who, but just judging by the responses in this thread, some of you seem like really rotten people.
posted by majcher at 5:43 PM on October 16, 2004


Well....

I don't think that we really need U.K. libel laws in order to be cautious about the terminology we use to discuss court cases in progress. American journalists are pretty much legally obligated to hedge their bets with "accused" and "alleged". I think that if bloggers want to have pretensions of journalism they need to also take on some of the responsibilities and risks. This includes the risk of being slapped with a libel suit for saying that someone is guilty of sexual harassment before the case has been decided.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:47 PM on October 16, 2004


substrate:Indeed Fox is going to do whatever is best for FOX bottomline, which may include ditching O'Reilly if it becomes a menace for the image of the Fox network. Nobody is irreplaceable, as you noticed.

The point is that the allegation may be true or wrong, but no matter what the court will say there's still be space to argue about court decision or his lawyer tactiques ; from a spotless reputation, to a legally spotless reputation with a lot of controversy..but not political controversy (the whole point of Fox news, with a bias) rather sexual controversy. I seriously doubt Fox has interest in keeping an element whose credibility will be forever attacked on sexual grounds, risking female viewers may not go well with the sponsors : and the sponsor are bottom line, not O'Reilly.

No matter what, the political support he (very probably) enjoys may fire back at him...an alleged sexual harrasser is hotter to handle then a spotless guy in a environment that promotes "high moral standards"
posted by elpapacito at 7:18 PM on October 16, 2004


Well, some predictions:

Coultier will ask why she stayed so long, and suggest that it's all due to the low standards set with Clinton's philandering.

Paglia will gush over O'Rilley's virility.

Limbaugh will see it as part of a big conspiracy inspired by fear.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:48 PM on October 16, 2004


I regret that I will never be able to hear the word falafel ever again without thinking of the liver spots on O'Reilly's penis.
posted by rks404 at 10:38 PM on October 16, 2004


This could be very bad news for falafel in general.

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I'm close to a complete shutdown of higher brain functions with the election and all.
posted by jokeefe at 1:55 AM on October 17, 2004


Also, we don't generally care for the kind of slanging match that you and I are now engaged in here on MeFi.

Seems you're playing a game of solo-tennis there Sidhedevil. I'm not involved with a slanging match with you.

Those defending the idea that an accusation is tantamount to guilt are rather illiberal to say the least. I use the term "witch hunt" to give the idea that this kind of knee-jerk thinking belongs to the dark-ages. Whenever this comes up again on MeFi, I will do the same, and point out that an accusation is not tantamount to guilt. I don't think it is wrong for me to do that.

Nobody yet has told me why libel laws are bad. Sidhedevil tells me they are bad because some Famous People say they are bad without saying why.

In any case, its obvious this is a bad FPP as it's pure OpinionFilter dressed up as fact.
posted by SpaceCadet at 2:10 AM on October 17, 2004


UK libel laws are bad because they put the burden of proof on the defendant. UK libel laws are bad because they're used by the rich, powerful, and politically important to suppress public criticism.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:11 AM on October 17, 2004


In any case, its obvious this is a bad FPP as it's pure OpinionFilter dressed up as fact.

whoop de fucking doo.
posted by quonsar at 8:30 AM on October 17, 2004


UK libel laws are bad because they put the burden of proof on the defendant. UK libel laws are bad because they're used by the rich, powerful, and politically important to suppress public criticism.

You're entitled to your opinion; I just don't see those two reasons you submit coming into play in the UK courts. Show me some examples and I might change my mind.

Regarding the US, according to this article:-

The 18th-century framers of the U.S. Constitution guaranteed freedom of the press by writing that protection into the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Even so, the Supreme Court of the United States -- the highest court in America -- for years refused to protect the media from libel lawsuits by relying on the First Amendment. Instead, libel laws varied from state to state without a single coherent rule in the nation.

That all changed in 1964 when the Supreme Court issued a ruling that revolutionized libel law in the United States. The famous decision in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan once and for all created a national rule that squared more fully with the free press guarantees of the First Amendment. In its ruling, the Court decided that public officials no longer could sue successfully for libel unless reporters or editors were guilty of "actual malice" when publishing false statements about them.

And just what is malice when it comes to proving libel? Retired Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., who wrote the Sullivan decision, defined it as "knowledge that the [published information] was false" or that it was published "with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not." In other words, public officials no longer could sue for libel simply by proving that something that had been broadcast or printed about them was false. Now they would have to prove that a journalist had knowingly printed false information while making little, if any, attempt to distinguish truth from lies.


Even in the US, there's legal protection against malicious statements. If you wish to ruin a person's reputation through false allegation for example, I would consider that as malicious.

Anyway, next time somebody lazily confuses allegation with guilt, I'll just remind them of the difference. As I said before, I don't see anything wrong with doing that, and at least this has been highlighted in this thread.
posted by SpaceCadet at 9:10 AM on October 17, 2004


I just don't see those two reasons you submit coming into play in the UK courts

Then you don't pay attention. The UK has been famous for decades for having about the strictest libel laws on the planet. If I sue you for libel in the UK, you have to prove that what you wrote was true -- this can be difficult, to put it mildly, because the formal proof that the court would accept is in my offices and I'm not giving it to you. In the UK, I can successfully sue you for libel even if your claim is substantially true but wrong in some minor or irrelevant way (if I say that you're having an affair with the wrong twin, or that you rape nuns while wearing a bolo tie when it's actually a bow tie). In the UK, people have successfully sued ISP's for libel for not censoring email and/or usenet.

You can find links and examples here, here, here, here, here, and here, or just google for "UK libel law".

Let's bring this into a concrete example. In this post (scroll down, it's a *long* post), you state that biscotti is clearly "quite happy to sell your kids of [sic] to the highest bidder." If biscotti wished to press suit, it would be up to you to prove that this is true.


The Sullivan decision highlights the differences with US libel law. In the US, if I am a public figure -- an elected official, or a newscaster -- it is not enough for me to show that what you printed about me is false in one detail or another. To collect damages, I must go further and show "actual malice" -- that either you knew that what you were printing was false, or that you were acting "in reckless disregard of the truth," which means that you damn well should have known it was false. This was included explicitly to protect investigative journalism.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:18 AM on October 17, 2004


SpaceCadet, you were engaged in a slanging match with skallas; I was mimicking your tone to show that it was inappropriate on MetaFilter.

I wasn't suggesting that you buy my argumentum ad verecundiam and take Auberon Waugh's word for it that the UK libel laws are an embarrassment to the nation; rather, I thought that you might do well to educate yourself by reading Mr. Waugh's incisive observations on them.

This is why I believe the US libel laws, flawed as they are, are superior to the UK libel laws:

A) The burden of "proof of truth" in the UK is on the defendant, rather than the plaintiff. In the US, the plaintiff needs to show that the accusations made are false and defamatory to the point of causing real or potential injury--in the UK, the plaintiff needs only to contend that the accusations are defamatory, without proving any actual injury, real or potential.

The David Irving case, to me, was the great exemplar of the moral bankruptcy of UK libel laws. Irving, a professional Holocaust denier, sued the author of a book on Holocaust deniers for stating that Irving was a Holocaust denier.

In order for the author and her publisher to win the suit, they not only had to prove that Irving was a Holocaust denier, but that the Holocaust had actually happened, and, moreover, that Irving was not "mistaken" in his assertions that it had not occurred, but rather that he had "wilfully misrepresented" the historical record.

Fortunately, this was not difficult, though it did require an arduous and lengthy trial process. (People who are interested in this really should read Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial, a book by Cambridge history professor Richard J. Evans, who was the defense's chief expert.)

B) The UK libel laws apply equally to public figures and private citizens. The foundation of US libel law is that people who put themselves in the public arena do so in the understanding that they open themselves to greater scrutiny than do private citizens. Which is not to say that public figures in the US have no recourse in cases of malicious, fabricated libels--they do. But US public figures cannot, as UK public figures do, quash legitimate criticisms in the public press with the blunt instrument of the UK libel laws.

C) The UK libel laws apply to satire and parody. This seems simply insane to me.

I, myself, much prefer the negative outcomes of the flaws of the US libel laws--ridiculous, mean-spirited accusations against public figures--to the negative outcomes of the flaws of the UK libel laws--citizens kept ignorant of serious malfeasances by public servants (the Jeremy Thorpe matter, for example, or the Profumo affair).
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:52 AM on October 17, 2004


Sidhedevil and ROU_Xenophobe, thanks for your replies.

In the UK, I can successfully sue you for libel even if your claim is substantially true but wrong in some minor or irrelevant way (if I say that you're having an affair with the wrong twin, or that you rape nuns while wearing a bolo tie when it's actually a bow tie

Any examples of such pedantry blocking justice? I just don't see that happening in reality. The examples you provide are extremes that take advantage of libel laws, which I totally agree with you, is wrong. Hey, I'm not saying it's perfect, and any law that allows such abuse needs amending to prevent such abuse, but also there does need to be controls on what people can publicly say about each other, in order to protect each individual's reputation. You have such restrictions too in the US, as I highlighted earlier.

C) The UK libel laws apply to satire and parody. This seems simply insane to me.

The UK has many satircal publications that take the piss out of celebrities and sometimes tell out-right lies about them. Never mind the tabloids. I don't see the libel laws curbing their freedom of speech (or even freedom from lying out-right!). Whenever one gets sued (which is rare), it gets a lot of attention. I guess what I'm saying here might even be an argument against the effectiveness of libel laws in the UK(!).

Now see the other side of this coin, if you are willing to. There are many people who have had their reputations dragged down by lies. They have a right to a legal process to defend their character. If not, we're all potential victims of malicious hearsay without any defence. These laws aren't just for the rich and famous, but for everybody.

Anyway, out of interest, do you think opinion stated as fact is wrong? Do you assume guilt to those who have been accused of something? Do you recognise that everyone is innocent until proven guilty?
posted by SpaceCadet at 1:52 PM on October 17, 2004


Any examples of such pedantry blocking justice?

Sort of. John Major successfully sued a periodical called Scallywag, essentially putting it out of business, for stating that he'd had an extramarital affair with Someone, claiming damages because the charge that he was an adulterer was harmful to his career, etc.

In actuality, his affair had been with someone else.

The relevant claim -- John Major is an adulterer -- was true. Nonetheless, Major was successful in killing the publication.

You have such restrictions too in the US, as I highlighted earlier

Only for private citizens (people who are not public figures).

If I publish something false about George Bush or John Kerry, in order to collect damages he has to show not just that it is false, but either that I knew it was false and published it anyway, or that I acted "in reckless disregard of the truth," which seems to mean that I damn well should have known it was false.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:13 PM on October 17, 2004


The US libel laws already provide for "a legal process to defend...character" for those who have "had their reputations dragged down by lies".

People do win libel lawsuits in the US if they can show that the words written against them were false, were known to be false by the writer (or should have been known to be false, if the writer had done basic "due diligence" research), and were written by the writer with malice. To me, that is the appropriate standard.

SC, if the UK courts are not currently prosecuting satire and parody as libel, then that is a great improvement. The number of lawsuits that, for example, Private Eye and Oz had to defend in the 1970s and 1980s seemed pretty excessive.

In the United States, everyone is innocent under the eyes of the law until proven guilty. However, my personal opinion is not bound by the rule of law.

For example, it is my personal opinion that Mr. O.J. Simpson killed his wife and Ron Goldman, even though he was acquitted of that crime in a court of law. I am allowed to hold and state that opinion; now, if I denied Mr. Simpson employment and he could prove that I did so because of that opinion, that would violate US law, as Mr. Simpson's legal status is that of an innocent person, despite what his status in my worldview might be.

It is my personal opinion that Ms. Mackris's case sounds plausible, based on the length and detail of the conversations quoted in her complaint. However, it is certainly possible that she is an incredibly creative dialogue writer and made these things up herself. But the former, at the moment, seems more likely to me than the latter.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:16 PM on October 17, 2004


ROU_Xenophobe, like I mentioned, there are times when libel laws are taken advantage of, and that is wrong. However, that doesn't negate the importance of having protection for individuals against lies told in public. We can argue about the application of the law, but that's not really my point.

In the United States, everyone is innocent under the eyes of the law until proven guilty. However, my personal opinion is not bound by the rule of law.

Sidhedevil, I totally agree.....who on earth should try to deny you your own opinion....as long as you say it is your opinion on the matter, and not make it out to be the empircal truth. This gets back to my original complaint against skallas....he just boldly came out with a statement as a fact, when he was merely stating his own personal assumption.

I would have yawned and skipped past the FPP if he'd said "I think that....". I complained because I see it here a LOT. I think it's gotten quite side-tracked on this thread (I apologise) but then I rarely see somebody offering a counter-argument to these kind of assumptions. I guess I've bored people into submission going on about it too much in this thread (which I have!)....I apologise for that. I am not picking on skallas in particular here either..... just hope people can simply qualify their thoughts as.....their thoughts.
posted by SpaceCadet at 2:49 PM on October 17, 2004


Sidhedevil, that's for public figures. If the Dallas Morning News prints some lies about me, a private person, tomorrow, all I need to show is that the information is false and defamatory.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:46 PM on October 17, 2004


Here in the United Pates of Hysteria...

...one need not prefix a statement with "In my opinion" to render the statement an opinion. Within the context of this forum, unless skallas had clearly implied that his statement was fortified by personal knowledge of defamatory fact, his statement remains an opinion.

This is not a difficult concept. Everyone is (or should be) aware of it. It encourages comfortable, short-winded conversation. Too bad it seems to attract contextually-challenged quibblefleas.
posted by Opus Dark at 4:48 PM on October 17, 2004


ROUXenophobe: If I publish something false about George Bush or John Kerry, in order to collect damages he has to show not just that it is false, but either that I knew it was false and published it anyway, or that I acted "in reckless disregard of the truth," which seems to mean that I damn well should have known it was false.

This is all nice in terms of ideals, but I think it is important to look at the way in which the real world is working currently. In reality, victory is likely to go to the person with the deepest pockets. Given that we are talking about a news organization known for engaging in quixotic lawsuits in retaliation for things said about it, hedging one's bets might be prudent.

Although they are not supposed to happen, SLAPP actions could cripple MeFi, and FOX appears to be a moderatly SLAPP-happy organization.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:02 PM on October 17, 2004


Who cares? She is going to end up with a cool $60 million or so. All for just hearing some stupid crap over the telephone. We should all be so lucky as to be "sexually harassed." It's the new American dream.

While I can’t imagine you were really serious in making this statement it isn’t terribly helpful to post inflammatory nonsense into an already volatile thread.

xammerboy, well said and thanks.

Which part of his post were you referring to? Or did you mean the whole thing?

For the sake of argument, there's nothing wrong with being grossly prejudiced against a group of people whose only commonality is a set of chosen beliefs. I'm not suggesting I agree with the assertion, but when someone says "all skinheads are morons" I tend to agree, despite the fact that I may, in fact, be wrong. Again, not to suggest republicans are the same as skinheads, but you can create an analogy with any number of ideologically-based groups.

I’m not sure what argument this would be “for the sake” of – perhaps an unfeasibly broad inductive one – but certainly nothing valid. To assume a fact about a person based on the premise that they are the member of a group which hold certain ideals would only work, in this case, if one of the official lines of that the Republican Party is “its fine for you to sexually harass women”, but obviously, jokes notwithstanding, it isn’t.

No. I'm accepting that it's an imperfect world. That's why civil law exists.

Well, again, this is relying on the law being accurate in determining guilt or the lack thereof (by allowing people to make false, potentially damaging claims about a person), precisely because the law can, on occasion, fail to correctly determine where guilt is appropriately attributed. If we are to accept that the law can sometimes fail to attribute guilt correctly, why should we then rely on it to accurately determine whether or not it is appropriate in assuming that making such claims is a practise that it is not possible for someone to be guilty of?

SpaceCadet, your opinion is worth less than jackshit. Anyone who thinks that the UK's libel laws are superior to the US's must have a suppurating pumpkin where his brain should be.

It seems you must be saying that SC’s opinions on libel laws are, shall we say, poor. If you believe though, that his criticism of skallas’s arbitrary statements are false or worthless, then we would seem to be back to square one. Ironically enough, you have used prejudicial language in an attempt to dismiss the argument that UK libels laws are betters than US ones. It is not a valid refutation of a proposition to simply suggest that those who hold it must be simpletons. If you truly believe Waugh’s thoughts on the issue are sufficient refutation, there seems even less need to commit this fallacy.

I regret that I will never be able to hear the word falafel ever again without thinking of the liver spots on O'Reilly's penis.

You truly are a bastard.

In any case, its obvious this is a bad FPP as it's pure OpinionFilter dressed up as fact / whoop de fucking doo.

This seems to suggest that you’re absolutely fine with the idea of people posting their personal opinions in the guise of hard truth on the front page? Perhaps “Brandy is utterly disgusting” or “Radiohead are awful”? In fact, I think calling this post an “opinion” gives it too much credit, the pervious two examples are those of opinions, but this is merely an arbitrary assumption designed to mislead. And yes, I’m aware of the irony of using an opinion a same paragraph as an argument denouncing them so there’s no need to point that out.

In actuality, his affair had been with someone else. The relevant claim -- John Major is an adulterer -- was true. Nonetheless, Major was successful in killing the publication.

To elaborate on this a little, Major filed the suite many years before it emerged that he had actually committed adultery, so, I think using this as an example of pedantry is slightly inappropriate. Either way, to draw a parallel, if I were to publish an article which contained the direct statement “Charles Manson killed John Lennon! He is a murder!” then this would mean that I have conjoined two statements. Firstly that Charles Manson killed John Lennon and secondly that Charles Manson is a murder. While the latter part is true, the former is obviously false; it would not seem apt to simply label this “pedantry”. While Manson’s reputation could hardly be damaged any further, it may get him into trouble with prison-bound Beatles fans.

Thanks for the hint on UK libel laws being so questionable though. It’s something I wasn’t really aware of.

People do win libel lawsuits in the US if they can show that the words written against them were false, were known to be false by the writer (or should have been known to be false, if the writer had done basic "due diligence" research), and were written by the writer with malice. / If the Dallas Morning News prints some lies about me, a private person, tomorrow, all I need to show is that the information is false and defamatory.

Let’s say that you and a journalist acquaintance thought that it might be a good idea to take a trip round the back of your local Safeway and shoot at turds with a BB gun. Then, to your horror, the next morning, the front page of the local paper carried a story saying that, instead of good humoured turd-shooting, what the writer actually witnessed was a disgusting display in which you had sexual intercourse with a dead pig you found in a dumpster. Obviously this publication would be highly damaging to your character. You would also be unable to prove the story false as you have no CCTV evidence, no witnesses and no alibi. It doesn’t seem right that this journalist should be able to profit from this sensational but false tale while you are consequentially jobless, friendless and disowned by your family.

posted by ed\26h at 3:41 AM on October 18, 2004


Here in the United Pates of Hysteria...

...one need not prefix a statement with "In my opinion" to render the statement an opinion. Within the context of this forum, unless skallas had clearly implied that his statement was fortified by personal knowledge of defamatory fact, his statement remains an opinion.

This is not a difficult concept. Everyone is (or should be) aware of it. It encourages comfortable, short-winded conversation. Too bad it seems to attract contextually-challenged quibblefleas.


We're not talking about opinions that are inconclusive ("The Beatles were shit!"), but whether someone is guilty or not ("X is guilty") - a conclusive either/or. The former clearly implies opinion since it is inconclusive (no fact can be drawn from it), the latter explicitly states a fact. Now, I'm sure you realise the difference between an opinion and a fact.

You might see my point of view if somebody starts opining about YOU but stating such opinion as conclusive fact.

Good post ed....
posted by SpaceCadet at 4:11 AM on October 18, 2004


The UK's libel laws are completely outrageous but part of the reason for that is the rabid nature of British tabloids. As long as papers such as the Sun and News of the World exist the public won't be that inclined to see laws repealed that keep those papers in check.

The other reason is that lawmakers of this country have a vested interest in the status quo, natch. The people who really lose out are small publications that can't afford the legal fees or the damages.
posted by Summer at 5:50 AM on October 18, 2004


Um, from my newsroom days, practical "due dilligence" means reporting on the known facts. So if a person is accused of sexual assault, you make certain to prepend the words "accused of" in front of sexual assault. Saying that someone actually did engage in sexual assault can bite you on the ass if, during the trial, it is discovered that the object of the accusation had an alibi in the next state.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:43 AM on October 18, 2004


Ed, if you read my posts in this thread instead of just leaping into the fray to defend SpaceCadet as though this were a tag team wrestling match, you would have noticed that I was one of the many people who said, early on, that the FPP should be edited to read "Allege sexual harassment, get fired".

My hostile words to SC were meant as an object-lesson about his hostile words to skallas; though I agreed with SC that skallas's FPP was inappropriately tendentiously worded (which skallas himself agreed with, asking Matt to edit it), I thought SC's continued ad-hominem hostility was inappropriate in the extreme.

You then go through and accuse me of making the argument ad verecundiam, even though I expressly stated that that wasn't what I was doing earlier when challenged on it by SC, and cited more examples to support my claim. Please try to catch up with the discussion before you post.

SC, thanks for your thoughtful post on UK libel laws. I still disagree, but I appreciate the more detailed statement of your views. Let's hope that Ed's microscopic tirade (why the small font?) oesn't drag this thread back to its earlier tone.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:42 AM on October 18, 2004


Well, apologies for missing your pervious post. However, whether or not the original author of a statement later retracts it that does not mean that others cannot still defend it, which it mistakenly seemed to me, you were doing.

If you believe that by saying “if you truly believe Waugh’s thoughts on the issue are sufficient refutation, there seems even less need to commit this fallacy” I was accusing you of fallaciously appealing to authority, I wasn’t. What I was saying is that it is quite possible that Waugh’s criticisms of libel law are perfectly sound and if such arguments exist there is no need to commit fallacies while attempting to affirm those same conclusions.

The reason I used a reduced font (the “small” tag is hardly unreadabley small) is that the post was going to be rather long and I didn’t want to take up all that much space. You describe it as a “microscopic tirade” which I really don’t understand (quite aside from the fact that the term seems something of an oxymoron) – I don’t know how it could be considered violent or angry in any way – I even tried to inject a little humour to keep things favourable. And if it helps, I think you’re probably a very nice man, but it will not do to simply describe an argument in pejorative terms in order to dismiss it rather than actually addressing it, as applies at least to my criticism of US libel laws as it was described in the posts I was responding to.
posted by ed\26h at 1:23 PM on October 18, 2004


I'm a lady, actually, Ed. By "microscopic" I meant that it was in the tiny font, which really came out very very small and difficult to read on my screen.

And I never defended the wording of skallas's original post, which is one of the reasons I think your post would have benefitted from a reasonably thorough reading of the preceding posts in the thread.

On the other hand, I agree with you that US libel laws, and their enforcement, are far from perfect. But I do think that the UK libel laws are even farther from perfect.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:10 PM on October 18, 2004


Some of youse guys are willfully ignoring context. MetaFilter is neither newsroom nor courtroom. Conversation here is so informal it would have to put on underwear to go outside. If you keep suggesting that even in this playpenned context imprecise language persuades to libelous presumption, you will eventually manage to make it legally so, and all of us kids will either have to shut up or start talking like undrunk JDs - not a Good Thing IMO - but hey - I'm not going to skin a knuckle over it - and I'm just so really really weelee weelee bored now.
posted by Opus Dark at 6:49 PM on October 18, 2004


« Older The Choice: 2004. Frontline documentary. First air...  |  A Cunning Stunt [Macromedia Fl... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments