Ya lard brained nonce Nazi
March 23, 2006 11:11 PM   Subscribe

Warning to chatroom users after libel award for man labelled a Nazi. "Mr Keith-Smith told the Guardian that he took action after a debate about the Iraq war in 2003 on a Yahoo! message board with about 100 members turned ugly. "She was very pro-Bush. Initially, she called me lard brain and I wasn't particularly concerned about that. Then she called me a Nazi," he said."
posted by gsb (45 comments total)

 
I was going to call him a stupid bastard for deciding to sue over being called a Nazi, but the story goes deeper...

"They started saying I was on a sex offenders' list and that people shouldn't let me near their children," said Mr Keith-Smith,

Now that sounds like more reasonable grounds for libel. And I've seen that happen on loads of forums and newsgroups around the place...when all else fails, start spreading rumours that your opponent abuses kiddies. They deserve to get sued.
posted by Jimbob at 11:20 PM on March 23, 2006


[insert Godwin joke here]
posted by brundlefly at 11:21 PM on March 23, 2006


Hardly seems worth the trouble, but hey, get some, Mr. Smith.

All the heroes who'll "attack" you on the 'Net slink away when you invite them to personally contact you.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:29 PM on March 23, 2006


By calling him a nazi she automatically lost the lawsuit, eh brundlefly?
posted by knave at 11:42 PM on March 23, 2006


Stories like this make me feel there are some people that just shouldn't be let on the internets... :(
posted by slater at 11:49 PM on March 23, 2006


He should have taken it to MetaTalk.
posted by tweak at 12:11 AM on March 24, 2006


Ha!
posted by brundlefly at 12:15 AM on March 24, 2006


Metafilter beware!
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:27 AM on March 24, 2006


And I've seen that happen on loads of forums and newsgroups around the place...when all else fails, start spreading rumours that your opponent abuses kiddies. They deserve to get sued.

Because people take unsubstantiated allegations made on internet chat forums as the gospel truth, so the damage to your reputation is a serious thing, right?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:14 AM on March 24, 2006


I thought you had to prove that your reputation was damaged for something to be libel? Otherwise isn't it just playground namecalling?
posted by beerbajay at 1:20 AM on March 24, 2006


By the tone of your comment, PeterMcDermott, am I led to believe you think it's perfectly okay to go around the place accusing people of being paedophiles, then? That's a very...weird...attitude to have, and I can't really see the justification for your concern.

people take unsubstantiated allegations made on internet chat forums as the gospel truth

Kinda irrelevant, really. I mean look what happens whenever we get a spammer here on Metafilter. Metatalk posts are suddenly full of people making nasty remarks about the spamming user with the express intent of tainting Google. I mean, if I were to say things like "(insert name here) should not be trusted around your children" and someone types that name into Google - (a likely situation here, since the guy is well known) - they'll get that quote straight back at them, not even needing to visit the relevant Yahoo! group to be able to judge the background of the quote.
posted by Jimbob at 1:24 AM on March 24, 2006


Jimbob writes "By the tone of your comment, PeterMcDermott, am I led to believe you think it's perfectly okay to go around the place accusing people of being paedophiles, then?"

No, that's a real assholish thing to do. But lawsuit worthy? Please.
posted by brundlefly at 1:39 AM on March 24, 2006


Better having a lawsuit than resorting to violence, which is what I'd want to do.
posted by Jelreyn at 2:29 AM on March 24, 2006


I don't know. The internet has always been the place where people let their most puerile facets come forward. As far as I'm concerned: yes, the comments were massively out of line. As are many of the comments said on this very weblog. Why, only yesterday was the gem "come back when you've stopped sucking Hitler's dick" revealed to the unsuspecting assembled meFites.
However, would there have been any sort of lawsuit if the guy wasn't a politician. I know that if I voluntarily entered a debate on a public forum (such as, say, the yahoo messageboards) and discussed a controversial issues (such as, say, anything to do with senor bush) and people started being unpleasant, childish or offensive, I'd just walk away. They'd no longer be worth my time. Unless of course I worked in a field where any publicity is good publicity.

And no, I don't advocate calling people paedophiles just because they support Mr Bush. There simply isn't any evidence to support that. But neither do I support throwing lawsuits around. Because, you know, it's not like we're running low. On the lawsuits.
posted by jrengreen at 2:58 AM on March 24, 2006


And just for the record: Yes, the link in the previous comment does make me embarrassed to be British.
posted by jrengreen at 3:00 AM on March 24, 2006


He resolved to take legal action after the pair accused his wife of being a prostitute. But once his solicitors petitioned the court to find out the identity of Ms Williams, who contributed to the forum under a pseudonym, the abuse got worse.

"It's a matter of principle. I had no proof that anyone who read this took it seriously. I just didn't see why she should be allowed to get away with it," he said.


hmm, correct me if I'm wrong, but what I'm getting here is that this was not some flamewar between anonymous users, the one who sued is a former Conservative party member, now I'm assuming when he posted at least his own identity was recognisable, ie. he didn't post anonymously, so... it seems similar to cases of libel that don't involve the internet, right?

I mean, I doubt you can sue for libel if your participated in a forum with a nickname and no one even knows who you are and so the claims about you have no actual consequences.
posted by funambulist at 3:22 AM on March 24, 2006


> And no, I don't advocate calling people paedophiles just because they support Mr Bush.

it's the other way round, the one pro-Bush here was the woman who had to pay damages for calling this politician a nazi and pedophile
posted by funambulist at 3:25 AM on March 24, 2006


Ah. Good point. Although the argument works both ways.
posted by jrengreen at 3:42 AM on March 24, 2006


Man, anyone can be sued for libel successfully in Britain. Anyone remember McLibel?
posted by fuerloins at 4:52 AM on March 24, 2006


I wonder how prey to this sort of thing our beloved 'boys in blue' are (I mean you, reading this. The screen is bl- ... never mind.)

Just out of curiousity: if I were to declare somebody here to be a filthy gutterlicking commu-nazi whore, whose only possible job in life could be as a model for corrective footwear, whose wife/husband is of questionable sexuality, and whose ancestry is evidence against the fundamental principles of darwinism, who would sue me?

Go on, hands up. You nonces.
posted by jrengreen at 5:00 AM on March 24, 2006


McLibel was the dictionary definition of a Pyrrhic victory.
posted by blag at 5:00 AM on March 24, 2006


You know who else sues people on the internet for calling him a Nazi?

Hitler.
posted by klangklangston at 5:07 AM on March 24, 2006


wow. akula must be getting a legal team together as we speak =)
posted by chrissyboy at 5:14 AM on March 24, 2006


McLibel was the dictionary definition of a Pyrrhic victory.

I thought that was the victory of Pyrrhus over the Romans?
posted by pracowity at 5:22 AM on March 24, 2006


Indeed klanglangston.

You know who else used to call people Nazis? Hitler.

...I wonder if any of Hitler's descendants could sue for usage of the term?

I'm reading what Michael Keith-Smith says here:"It's a matter of principle. I had no proof that anyone who read this took it seriously. I just didn't see why she should be allowed to get away with it."

I don't know whether he used a nickname or not, but either way it's clear, from his own words, that he didn't know - or couldn't prove - that any harm was being done.

He apparently just didn't like the idea that she was saying that and he couldn't prevent her nor retaliate to his satisfaction. So even though it's generally accepted that freedom of speech is a universal right, particularly directed at politicians he tracked her down and nailed her because he personally didn't think she should get away with it.

And despite the chilling effect this might mean for anyone elses freedom of speech.

...you know who else used to do that?
posted by Smedleyman at 5:27 AM on March 24, 2006


/incidentally perhaps my fury gets in the way of thinking reasonably about this. I've never considered retaliation against anyone for their words (other than my own words) and have gone to great lengths (occasionally making an ass of myself) to show something like this as a complete farce.
Been called some things myself, never even thought about suing anyone.
I'm utterly amazed that it has actually happened. This could only be more supressive of speech if it were made criminal law and or there was the threat of violence in some way.

Someone who calls someone else a Nazi (et.al) in a discussion generally invalidates their credibility depending of course on the circumstances.
Clearly though this pedophile nonsense is way out of line, but everyone would know that it's B.S.

What if she said it on a streetcorner? What it was prefaced by "I think..."? What if it was in private conversation but overheard? What if it was alluded to that she said it but typed in the chat room? What if she apologised or recanted shortly afterward? My favorite question: What if she can't pay the money? What if she won't pay based on principle?

Appalling. Truly.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:44 AM on March 24, 2006


Unless his user name is the same as his real name, nobody would know who was being accuesed of pedophilia. I wonder if using a pseudonym means I can never sue for libel?
posted by Jatayu das at 6:01 AM on March 24, 2006


Your momma wears combat boots.
posted by tomplus2 at 6:03 AM on March 24, 2006


tomplus2, my mother was a war hero. Your taking that lightly offends me deeply.

*calls lawyer*
posted by jonmc at 6:26 AM on March 24, 2006


Pyreaic Victory!
posted by Pollomacho at 6:39 AM on March 24, 2006


So basically, all y'all hiding behind screen names don't get to sue, but I - using my full name - would?

Haha Nazis!
posted by Richard Daly at 6:49 AM on March 24, 2006


if I were to declare somebody here to be a filthy gutterlicking commu-nazi whore, whose only possible job in life could be as a model for corrective footwear, whose wife/husband is of questionable sexuality, and whose ancestry is evidence against the fundamental principles of darwinism, who would sue me?

Not me. People who would take legal action over mere unsubstantiated personal abuse are piss-blooded, cry-baby weaklings. Oh, and probably lard-brained Nazi nonces to boot.
posted by Decani at 6:51 AM on March 24, 2006


Also, I couldn't really sue since all of that's true.
posted by Decani at 6:52 AM on March 24, 2006


Hitler's descendants

Heh.
posted by hangashore at 7:08 AM on March 24, 2006


I think the article headline was misleading.

Perhaps the laws are different in England, but calling someone 'a Nazi' is pretty obviously a statement of opinion. The word 'Nazi' has been so watered down (ie, Soup Nazi), that it's no longer an unambiguous statement of fact.

However, when the lady said that he was on a pedophile list he wasn't on... THAT crossed a line, and was obviously actionable. She was stating a factual untruth with the intent to damage his reputation. You would lose a suit brought against you in the US on the same grounds.

Most likely, that's what prompted him to sue... it's the obvious cause of action. The rest of it, I think, is fluff by the journalist to sex up the story.
posted by Malor at 8:21 AM on March 24, 2006


More misleads.

Being sued for libel because of words typed in a chatroom, is,I think, new; for a forum post, not so.

The guardian doesn't seem to understand the differences between 'chatrooms'/'chat sites' and 'forums'/'discussion boards'.

Take this story covering the same incident.

This is where I heard of the story first, and I wasn't quite certain whether it was about a chatroom or a forum, by the end of it.

Is it so terribly difficult to understand the difference between the two?

The story is about a regular old FORUM libel case.
posted by Blue Stone at 10:13 AM on March 24, 2006


How do you pronounce that word - 'nonce'. is it none-see? like 'nancy?' what does it mean? is this a british word?
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:33 PM on March 24, 2006


baby_balrog: wikipedia for Nonce look for the UK bit down the page. But yes paedophile type thing.

My French pronounciation isn't good, I think "Nancy" (the city) in French is pronounced "noncey"? if so, then drop the Y.
posted by selton at 2:16 PM on March 24, 2006


isn't pronounced like nonsense, but without the -nse?

(hence, nonce sense)
posted by funambulist at 2:22 PM on March 24, 2006


Because people take unsubstantiated allegations made on internet chat forums as the gospel truth, so the damage to your reputation is a serious thing, right?

Or because people are gullible morons who believe the first thing they hear:

"Hm, it does seem improbable that this man is a child rapist (as the rumours claim), but on the other hand I haven't heard any rumours to the effect that he's not a child rapist either. I guess I better watch out!"
posted by spazzm at 3:18 PM on March 24, 2006


He should have taken it to MetaTalk.

Does MeTa have $10k rewards now? If so, I'm taking *everything* to metatalk!
posted by I Love Tacos at 3:36 PM on March 24, 2006


Perhaps the laws are different in England, but calling someone 'a Nazi' is pretty obviously a statement of opinion. The word 'Nazi' has been so watered down (ie, Soup Nazi), that it's no longer an unambiguous statement of fact.

Calling someone a Nazi would not be actionable in many contexts in the UK because it is purely an insult ("mere vituperation" in the lingo). There are also times when it could amount to an assertion of fact - UKIP are a right wing political party - don't know the facts here.

As for the case in general, I agree with Jimbob. Can't see any reason why general defamation principles shouldn't apply. Those same principles btw are often alien to Americans with a First Amendment view.
posted by Ugandan Discussions at 5:01 PM on March 24, 2006


Even under American libel or slander laws the guy might have gotten a successful judgement. If I remember correctly from looking at the code and case law for libel there is an exception to the need to prove harm. That exception was when on the face of it the accusation would mar someone's reputation. The specific example was sodomy, but paedophilia would definitely be this day and age's equivalent.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:55 PM on March 24, 2006


All the heroes who'll "attack" you on the 'Net slink away when you invite them to personally contact you.

If you are referring to your own personal experience, I'm really surprised. One would think, judging from your contributions on Metafilter, that you would be an excellent conversationalist and great fun to talk to.
posted by shoos at 10:19 PM on March 25, 2006


All the heroes who'll "attack" you on the 'Net slink away when you invite them to personally contact you.

Not me, mate. I don't say anything to people on the net I wouldn't say to their face if they expressed the same pitiful, stupid and loathsome opinions in person. I mean, what could happen? They'd assault me? Okay, then either I get to hospitalise them in justified self-defence or I get them banged up for assault as soon as I regain consciousness. Not a totally ideal "win-win" situation I grant you, but close enough for me.
posted by Decani at 3:54 PM on March 26, 2006


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