Only guy with crabs on Broadway is Sebastian
October 14, 2010 7:25 AM   Subscribe

Defamation by Twitter Broadway actor Marty Thomas has filed papers in court asking that the identify of the "bwayanonymous" Twitter account (cache) be revealed, after the account made a post alleging Thomas has crabs.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero (37 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Actually, given the facts in that link, he's got a decent case. He can make out a decent case of defamation-- untruthful allegations of an STD are pretty much defamation per se--and given that it's anonymous, he's using the appropriate methods to get the information he needs to file a case.

Why is this news?
posted by valkyryn at 7:35 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Everyone's a little bit crabby.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:45 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


And now 5000x as many people have heard that Broadway actor Marty Thomas has crabs than before he made a case out of it! Well, any publicity, I guess.
posted by Pants McCracky at 7:54 AM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am reliably informed that October is delicious hairy crab season in Shanghai.
posted by jquinby at 7:57 AM on October 14, 2010


Everybody on Broadway has crabs. The Broadway pubic region is the equivalent to the coasts of Cape Cod.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:59 AM on October 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I really wished we lived in a world where being cute, talented, and niche famous wasn't enough justification for some people to treat them like shit.

(On the other hand, I had no idea who any of these people were until these papers were filed.)

I'm always wary of defamation suits but reading that cache made my skin crawl, and honestly, I kind of want him to get his ass handed to him because I don't care if these people are the biggest assholes on the planet, spreading shit talk like this is about as sex-non-positive as you can get, and that just presses my buttons. (And don't even get me started on the Planned Parenthood thing.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:04 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Which Avenue Q cast member gave Marty Thomas crabs?"

Really? Is this a thing he's going to pursue? First, the fact is that he's going to have to prove that it's false, as otherwise it's not defamation. Good times. "The prosecution submits exhibit B, 'Marty Thomas's junk' to the stand."

Then at that point, doesn't it still stand to reason that there's a wide berth for joking or free speech? "J/K, it was lobster!" If ever Marty Thomas received a gift of seafood, or was taken out for dinner by another cast member at a seafood restaurant, then the literal meaning is true. It's not like the tweet said "pubic lice."

But yeah. Now it's gossip that's gone beyond Twitter. It's on Metafilter. It'll be on Reddit. People will know that Marty Thomas may or may not have crabs, but will certainly know that he's not willing to laugh at himself or brush it off.
posted by explosion at 8:11 AM on October 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm always wary of defamation suits but reading that cache made my skin crawl

No kidding!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:22 AM on October 14, 2010


it's a tough situation. if people don't defend themselves against scurrility like this, then defamers aren't dissuaded. but if they do, then they risk publicizing their own defamation. it's damage that can't really ever be fully undone.
posted by facetious at 8:24 AM on October 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


By engaging the wit of a sixth grader mentality anonymous twitter user via the courts, Thomas not only let the world know about the anonymous sixth grader mentality twitter user, but also gave much more validity to the possibility that he has crabs, than the anonymous sixth grader mentality twitter user ever could.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:26 AM on October 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


i didn't even know who marty thomas was - and now my introduction to him is this

let me know how that works for you marty
posted by pyramid termite at 8:30 AM on October 14, 2010


Marty Thomas ate my balls!
Not really, please don't sue me.
posted by waxboy at 8:31 AM on October 14, 2010


The fact that this lawsuit has made him and his non-crab-having-but-maybe-crab-having more famous than it otherwise would have been doesn't make him some kind of pussy who is getting what he deserves. Somebody has to be the one to take one for the team on shit like this, and Marty's the one doing it, despite almost certainly knowing that more, not less, publicity would be the result. That's not something that we should mock.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:36 AM on October 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


This is news because of the much broader impact of the lawsuit, depending on how it turned out. Saying horrible things about others, in an anonymous way, is what pretty much defines discourse on the internet today. Of course, "horrible things" are not necessarily defamatory. Look at sites like "Rate my Professor" where anonymous individuals can say anything they want about faculty, and these individuals may not even be students. Could a faculty member sue for defamation if such postings are unsubstantiated and affected promotion and tenure? Just one example, but I think more lawsuits will be coming as our discourse because more and more crass.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:39 AM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had a bunch of crabs this summer. They were delicious.
posted by crunchland at 8:50 AM on October 14, 2010


I'm fine with Rate my professor, honestly. The reliance on adjuncts is letting too many crackpots teach, at least where I work. Then I see kids with brains leaking out their ears because of impossible assignments and then I wish crabs on the professors.
posted by angrycat at 9:00 AM on October 14, 2010


Marty Thomas, meet Barbara Streisand.

Crabs, crabs, crabs!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:01 AM on October 14, 2010


In other news, Discovery Channel has announced that the next season of Deadliest Catch will focus on Marty Thomas' esthetician.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 9:02 AM on October 14, 2010


Seymoour Zamboni: That would be news if suits about anonymous defamation over public computer networks hadn't been going on for more than 20 years (see, e.g. Cubby v. Compuserve). As it is there is absolutely nothing newsworthy about this.

The article (and the FPP) doesn't even discuss the only even slightly interesting thing about the case, which is NY CPLR 3102(c), the quirky New York Rule that allows one to figure out the identity of an anonymous poster without actually filing suit against the ISP or service provide. Even that proceedure -- which was once pretty obscure and exotic -- is rapidly becoming old hat for New York practitioners in this area.
posted by The Bellman at 9:19 AM on October 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


There were a lot of typos up there, weren't there? "Service provider" and "procedure". I want my 3-minute edit, please, Matt.
posted by The Bellman at 9:20 AM on October 14, 2010


200 followers, huh? I see his frustration but that's hardly a wide audience.
posted by josher71 at 9:32 AM on October 14, 2010


He's a Broadway chorus boy. It would only be news if he DIDN'T have crabs...

Just because he might have legal standing doesn't make pursuing it the right thing to do. This was really a bad idea.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 10:19 AM on October 14, 2010


200 followers, huh? I see his frustration but that's hardly a wide audience.

That's not counting his crabs.
posted by sexymofo at 10:21 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that there are other ways of getting crab lice - would that invalidate the case for defamation? In general under law, is there a limit to not quite outright nudge nudge wink wink innuendo?

Any lawyers present?
posted by IndigoJones at 11:11 AM on October 14, 2010


"The fact that there are other ways of getting crab lice..."

Hey now. The post said nothing about crab lice (Marty Thomas.) For all we know, he was served a helping of steamed crabs doused in Old Bay, and not a sexually transmitted parasite (Marty Thomas.)

It'd be a shame if Marty Thomas was connected with STDs because of a delicious lunch (Venereal Warts.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:09 PM on October 14, 2010


What a lousy thing to do.
posted by Ratio at 12:11 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hated "Crabs." Banal production, shallow character development, derivative lyrics and melodies. Andrew Lloyd Weber's worst work yet.
posted by jbickers at 12:16 PM on October 14, 2010


I thought Crabs! was fine on Broadway, but the touring production is a pain in the crotch.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:09 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that there are other ways of getting crab lice - would that invalidate the case for defamation? In general under law, is there a limit to not quite outright nudge nudge wink wink innuendo?

Any lawyers present?


I'm an attorney, but this is just general discussion, not legal advice. If you're thinking about saying something questionable on the internet, consult a competent attorney in your jurisdiction first.

Anyway, like most of the US, New York recognizes 'defamation per se,' which is the idea that some things are just so inherently terrible to say about a person that harm is presumed (ordinarily actual economic or pecuniary harm to the plaintiff's reputation must be alleged and proven). Liberman v. Gelstein, 80 N.Y.2d 429 (1992). Allegations or imputations of "loathsome disease," including venereal diseases like pubic lice, are one kind of defamation per se. It doesn't matter that someone could get it from a non-sexual source. The source is still implied, and it still makes the victim a sexual pariah.

In New York law, "defamation has long been recognized to arise from the making of a false statement which tends to expose the plaintiff to public contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace, or induce an evil opinion of him in the minds of right-thinking persons, and to deprive him of their friendly intercourse in society." Dillon v. City of New York, 261 A.D.2d 34 (1999) (quotation omitted). In this case, it certainly seems that the victim has been exposed to ridicule, and the allegation of a venereal disease, whether or not specifically alleged to have been acquired sexually, would certainly tend to deprive the victim of 'friendly intercourse.'

It was a long walk for that pun, but it was worth it.
posted by jedicus at 2:05 PM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Happy to be the straight man, and thank you for the information and the advice.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:41 PM on October 14, 2010


thank you for the information and the advice.

You're welcome for the information, and I hate to be a wet blanket, but just to be clear, that was not legal advice, per my earlier disclaimer, just a general discussion of the law for the edification of the MeFi-reading public. As they say, "a lawyer should further the public's understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system because legal institutions in a constitutional democracy depend on popular participation and support to maintain their authority." So consider your understanding of and confidence in the rule of law duly furthered. I trust your belief in the authority of our legal institutions continues unabated.
posted by jedicus at 4:58 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is the advocate's job to be a wet blanket. The only advice I meant was the general keep your yap shut on the internet.

Sound advice at any time.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:15 PM on October 14, 2010


All kidding aside, I'd be interested to see people's thoughts on what the grander law should be about things like this. Truly anonymous libel is a new animal, and the need for internet conversation to be private and the need for people not to be innocently defamed meet at loggerheads here. What's the best solution?
posted by Navelgazer at 6:25 PM on October 14, 2010


What's the best solution? --- "Everyone needs a hug."
posted by crunchland at 6:49 PM on October 14, 2010


What's the best solution? --- "Everyone needs a hug."

Can you catch crabs from that?
posted by Jacqueline at 6:55 PM on October 14, 2010


Hmm...well, one approach would be to hope that after a generation or so people put a whole lot less stock in anonymous allegations on the internet. That seems unlikely, though.

I wonder what the law on anonymous defamation was before the internet. Surely there were anonymous books, pamphlets, fliers, 'zines, and so forth, especially with the advent of the copying machine. How, for example, would a court of that era treat a suit against a John Doe defendant with the goal of subpoenaing records from a local copy shop to determine the identity of the producer of a defamatory flier? That seems roughly equivalent to the present case.

A small point about your argument: "the need for internet conversation to be private." Private and anonymous are not the same. I think the big issue here is anonymous, public defamation.
posted by jedicus at 6:58 PM on October 14, 2010


Surely there were anonymous books, pamphlets, fliers, 'zines, and so forth, especially with the advent of the copying machine.

Indeed yes
posted by IndigoJones at 12:22 PM on October 17, 2010


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