Former Maple Leaf GM Sues Bloggers For Posting Rumors About His Firing, Spreads Rumors Far & Wide
from the streisand-effect,-eh? dept
By now, you probably know the Streisand Effect storyline. Obscure person X says something famous person Y either doesn’t want known or doesn’t like, famous person Y sues or threatens to sue, thereby vaulting the entire episode into a media spotlight it wouldn’t have enjoyed otherwise. Whether that disliked information is true or not, the entire point is that what amounts to a massive overreaction doesn’t achieve the ultimately desired effect. True, it can take a thick skin to ignore some of the nonsense that occurs on the internet, but it’s for the best.
You know who I would have thought would really have thick skin? A guy who had played hockey and had, up to recently, served as an executive in the NHL. Turns out I was wrong, since former Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke is pissed about rumors of why he was fired spreading online, so much so that he’s going to court.
The former general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs filed a court action Friday alleging defamation against several unidentified Internet commenters believed to have authored and spread rumours about his dismissal.
“Brian has decided that it is time to stop people who post comments on the Internet from thinking they can fabricate wild stories with impunity,” read a letter penned by Burke’s lawyer Peter A. Gall of Heenan Blaikie LLP. “Brian is determined to find the authors of the lie about him and those who have circulated the lie. He is pursuing them in court and will obtain orders compelling them to pay damages for their illegal actions.”
The rumors in question suggested that Burke had been fired over an affair with a reporter covering the team and had had a child with said reporter. As it turns out, this wasn’t at all true. If ever there was going to be something on the internet to piss you off, that one might be it. The problem, of course, is that the bloggers in question appear to be obscure netizens with no following at all. Almost nobody knew of the rumors — and for the few who did, it was really no different than some random fans at the bar or in the stands tossing around silly rumors. Until the lawsuit, that is. Hell, most of the bloggers haven’t even been identified beyond screen names to date, since they aren’t important or followed enough for anyone to know anything about them.
The defendants, whose identities are currently unknown to Burke, are listed only by their online usernames: “NoFixedAddress”, “CamBarkerFan”, “Lavy16”, “mbskidmore”, “Tulowd”, “Loob”, “Naggah”, “mowerman”, “Aaronp18”, “Steve”, “KaBoomin8”, “THEzbrad”, “Slobberface”, “Poonerman”, “isolatedcircuit”, “Kanada Kev”, and “sir psycho sexy”.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: surely, Tim, you are “sir psycho sexy.” Well, I’m not. My other handle is “jock itch mcglitch” thank you very much. But at least THEzbrad’s website has been identified, now that he’s written a response to the lawsuit. I give you one person that Burke’s lawyers claim acted with “actual and expressed malice and had the intention of damaging the Plaintiff’s reputation.”
Up until three weeks ago very few people had visited this blog. If you are one of my new readers you are probably aware of my current situation. Recently I have been involved in a lawsuit regarding a post I made on this blog earlier in the year. That blog post was merely speculation; just a rumour I heard and had read on hockey forums… It needs to be noted that the blog post I made specifically stated that what I was writing was based on speculations and that it was just rumours…Hopefully, Brian Burke and Hazel Mae will read this and understand how I feel, and what my intentions were. I want to sincerely apologize to them for any personal or professional damages my actions may have caused them.
That’s the kind of malice you can really sink your teeth into, amirite? But, the bigger point is that this guy also made it quite clear that what he was posting was a rumor in the original posting, rather than a statement of fact. Could it still be defamatory? Possibly — especially with Canada’s stricter defamation laws. But consider the context, and think about how this was really little different than some fans at a bar tossing around some rumors which no one actually paid any attention to. If it’s defamatory, it’s fleeting and meaningless. But, when we see a public person bring a spotlight to themselves over obscure information, even if it’s not true, what we end up with is him reminding everyone that he is willing to sue over rumors. Of course, the end result might just be that people also reconfirm that he was fired for just being a really crappy GM. Nicely done.