Gavin McInnes Files Laughably Silly Defamation Lawsuit Against Southern Poverty Law Center

from the apparently-the-marketplace-of-ideas-is-run-by-sjws dept

Let’s just get this out of the way up top and say that I’m fully expecting this article to be overrun by the same type of folks who showed up after I criticized supposed “free speech warrior” Jordan Peterson when he filed a bullshit defamation case against a university after some of that university’s employees suggested Peterson was similar to Hitler and compared him to a white supremacist. As we pointed out then, even if this was misleading, having someone have a negative opinion of you, and even suggesting you hold views you might not hold, is far from defamatory. And, suing someone for their opinion of you is very much the opposite of supporting free speech, and is an especially stupid look for people going around pretending to be free speech warriors.

And, now we have yet another similar case, this time involving Proud Boy founder Gavin McInnes suing the Southern Poverty Law Center for defamation concerning SPLC’s practice of naming certain individuals and groups as “extremist” on its “Hatewatch” or “Extremist Files” lists. And, let’s be clear: if you already love SPLC and hate McInnes, you’re already going to think this is a dumb lawsuit. But this post is directed towards other folks as well: those who think SLPC has a bit of an itchy trigger finger in declaring someone part of a hate group (or declaring groups as hate organizations) and who actually believe (per McInnes’ own claims) that he’s not a racist, not a Nazi, and he’s just a “humorist” promoting “western values.”

If you believe that, then you have to throw out the “western value” of free speech under the 1st Amendment, because that’s exactly what McInnes is attacking here, with the help of lawyer Ron Coleman. This is particularly disappointing, given that we’ve covered Coleman’s legal work in the past, including his big trademark win for The Slants at the Supreme Court, noting that the US Patent and Trademark’s office refusal to hand out trademarks based on its determination that a trademark could be “offensive” violated the First Amendment as a content-based regulation. Coleman has also been on the right side of crazy anti-free speech lawsuits in the past, including fighting back against Brett Kimerlin’s famously vexatious lawsuits against critics. Of course, the fact that Coleman was part of the team who sued Google on behalf of Gab.ai for being kicked out of the Android Play Store was, perhaps, a warning that Coleman’s view of free speech is a bit different than most 1st Amendment champions.

Let’s be clear on this: the lawsuit is bullshit. And it seems likely to be thrown out. Unfortunately, it was filed in Alabama which has no anti-SLAPP statute, which is a reminder that (1) every state should have an anti-SLAPP statute and (2) we need a federal anti-SLAPP statute. However, the lawsuit itself is a joke. It is premised on the claim that even though SPLC’s designation of a person or organization onto any of its lists is clearly a statement of opinion rather than fact, because SPLC is widely respected by some, that magically makes it defamatory. This is… what’s the word again? Oh, right: nonsense.

What is relevant is that despite the considerable and substantive and justified assaults on its reputation, the SPLC Hate Designations are still so widely credited and so vigorously promoted by SPLC that they are commonly accepted, treated and understood as ?official? and ?factual? determinations in significant and influential ways, as intended by SPLC.

Mr. McInnes brings this action against SPLC for defaming him by use of the SPLC Hate Designations, and publishing other false, damaging and defamatory statements about him, as alleged in detail below; for its concerted, obsessive and malicious actions taken to ?deplatform? Mr. McInnes; for its tortious interference with his economic opportunities; and for intentionally interfering with his contractual relationships by causing, inter alia, the termination of Mr. McInnes?s employment, an almost complete deplatforming and defunding and subjecting him to employment discrimination based on his lawful non-employment recreational activities.

You can certainly be concerned about the idea of “deplatforming” without trying to twist and misrepresent the First Amendment. But here, the lawsuit seems to suggest that an opinion turns to defamation if there are consequences from the opinion, due to the reputation of whoever is stating their opinion. Under such a theory, the NY Times should never write a negative review of a restaurant or movie ever again. A negative review of a movie might cause it to be “deplatformed” and removed from theaters faster (and perhaps not released on online platforms). To claim that this makes it defamatory is nonsense.

As if to demonstrate just how silly this lawsuit is, at one point Coleman is reduced to claim that a reference to McInnes “winkingly” making a statement is somehow false because McInnes, in fact, did not wink.

Though the Times article states that ?Mr. McInnes has in recent years set himself apart from the current crop of professionally outraged right-wing pundits, not only for being able to spout aggressive rhetoric, but also for being willing to get physical at times,? it does not actually give an example of Gavin McInnes ?getting physical,? instead stating, ?like the president, he tends to publicly disavow all violence while winkingly insisting that he ? and the Proud Boys ? will never back down during a scrape.?

Mr. McInnes did not, in fact, wink while making that statement to the Times reporter.

When you’re reduced to debating over the meaning of “winkingly” (note to Ron: it does not mean literally winking), you’ve already lost.

And, again, let’s be clear: I actually think that the SPLC is way too quick in putting people and organizations on its list, and I also agree with the claim that too many people accept those lists as some sort of gospel “designation.” But that doesn’t change the fact that putting someone on such a list is an opinion, one that can neither be proven as “true” or “false” as a statement of fact would be. Indeed, this is part of the reason why we’ve long been concerned about hate speech laws, because determining what counts as “hate speech” is inherently a subjective opinion. And it’s an opinion when SPLC does it, and even a negative opinion that has tremendous influence is still very clearly protected under the First Amendment.

The lawsuit struggles to focus on the impact of SPLC’s opinions because that’s basically all it has:

To that end, SPLC acknowledges that its goal is to destroy organizations and persons it targets as ?hate groups? or as members of ?hate groups? as a matter of ?political struggle,? even if those targets do not qualify based on the broadly-understood definitions above.

Right, but that’s the very nature of speech. The intent of free speech is to allow people and groups to try to persuade others of something. And, if that persuasion includes convincing others not to do business with you, that’s fair game. It’s that whole “marketplace of ideas” concept that defenders of McInnes regularly cite. Yet, here, McInnes and Coleman seem to be saying “fuck that” to the marketplace of ideas, and arguing that SPLC’s just too damn good in the marketplace of ideas, and therefore needs to be censored.

What a bunch of hypocrites.

And, yes, the complaint literally admits that the listing is not a statement of fact, but of opinion. It includes an entire section entitled “Hate is in the Eye of the Beholder,” which might as well be the heading on the motion to dismiss this nonsense as well. The complaint flat out admits that “hate” is a subjective opinion which by definition means that it’s not defamatory.

If you can’t read that section, it says:

?Hate? is in the Eye of the Beholder

While SPLC?s rhetoric routinely associates ?hate groups? with actual ?hate crimes,? SPLC has acknowledged that what it defines as ?hate group? activity includes constitutionally protected ?marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing,? and that the SPLC?s designation of a ?hate group? ?does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.?

Indeed, in a 2018 Washington Post article, SPLC President Richard Cohen admitted to journalist David Montgomery that it does not matter to SPLC whether the use of SPLC Hate Designations is accurate in terms of identifying conduct motivated by actual ?hate,? because its use is part of SPLC?s ?effort to hold them accountable for their rhetoric and the ideas they are pushing.?

This seems to imply a belief that no third party can call out activities by someone so long as those activities are “constitutionally protected.” Which is nonsense. Filing a bullshit lawsuit is constitutionally protected, but I can still call it a stupid bullshit lawsuit without that being defamatory. Yet, this lawsuit appears to imply otherwise — especially if a lot of people agreed with me that it was a stupid bullshit lawsuit (which you should, because it is).

Then there’s a whole section mocking the SPLC for its fundraising activities, and how it uses its focus on declaring hate groups as part of that fundraising effort. And, sure, I actually fully agree that the SPLC deserves criticism and shouldn’t be viewed as a definitive source of very much. But… none of that violates the law. Indeed, SPLC’s speech is clearly protected speech under the 1st Amendment, even when I disagree with it. Honestly, so much of the complaint is just an angry screed about how McInnes (and Coleman?) doesn’t like how the SPLC makes its lists and fundraises, and is especially annoyed that others take the SPLC list seriously.

So, hey guys, whatever happened to the “marketplace of ideas”? Don’t like it? Go speak up about it, but don’t fucking sue someone over their free speech.

Even the specific claims of defamation are pretty ridiculous. Take the first claim:

An article dated June 8, 2018 on the SPLC website by ?Hatewatch Staff? entitled ?Last Month in Europe: May 2018? bears the heading, ?The following is a list of activities and events linked to American white supremacist, neo-Nazi, anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant and anti- Muslim groups and personalities in Europe.? The SPLC post described a May 6, 2018 event in London called Day for Freedom at which Mr. McInnes spoke, describing him as ?Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys*, which SPLC lists as a hate group.?

The asterisk in the sentence is, according to the article heading, an indication that the referenced organization is ?listed? as a ?hate group,? although the sentence also explicitly says, ?which SPLC lists as a hate group.?

The June 8, 2018 article by SPLC Hatewatch Staff on the SPLC website is false and defamatory toward Mr. McInnes because it falsely ascribes to him characteristics of SPLC?s false description of the Proud Boys, when in fact the Proud Boys are not a hate group.

I’m almost embarrassed for Coleman, who surely knows better than this. The only statements of fact that they are complaining about are (a) that McInness is the founder of the Proud Boys (which everyone agrees is true), and (b) that SPLC lists the Proud Boys as a hate group. But that’s also true. SPLC does list the Proud Boys as a hate group in its opinion, and the complaint itself already admits that this is a statement of opinion. So, how is that defamatory? Answer: it is not.

Later on in the complaint, it states that an article with this sentence is defamatory:

?The Trump-inspired ?Proud Boys,? called the ?Alt-Light? by some and always seeming to be looking for a rumble, may or may not show up in sizeable numbers, although the group?s founder, Gavin McInnes, says he fullheartedly supports the rally.?

What’s “defamatory” there? I kid you not:

…is false and defamatory toward Mr. McInnes because it falsely ascribes to him characteristics of SPLC?s false description of the Proud Boys, which is not ?always looking for a rumble.?

I mean, that’s not even accurately quoting the original article, which notes that they are “always seeming to be looking for a rumble” which makes it obviously a statement of opinion, not to mention rhetorical hyperbole.

There’s a lot more like this and each one looks dumber than the previous one — though I wonder if Coleman will now argue that that is defamatory.

Anyway, if you’re concerned about the nature of “deplatforming” and you hate the SPLC and you think Gavin McInnes is the new Lenny Bruce, you should still not be happy about this lawsuit. The theories in this lawsuit are nonsense, taking statements they admit are opinion and pretending that the impact of those opinions magically makes them defamatory — which is not how any of this works. It also seems to take non-defamatory, truthful statements of fact (such as that the Proud Boys have been called a hate group by the SPLC — which is an accurate statement of fact whether or not you agree with the SPLC’s opinion) and trying to twist that into being defamatory.

Coleman has done good work in the past, but this is an embarrassment. Of course, perhaps it’s not as embarrassing as recognizing that under his own wacky legal theory, it would appear that Coleman himself regularly “defames” others:

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Comments on “Gavin McInnes Files Laughably Silly Defamation Lawsuit Against Southern Poverty Law Center”

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310 Comments
Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

The lawsuit struggles to focus on the impact of SPLC’s opinions because that’s basically all it has:

>To that end, SPLC acknowledges that its goal is to destroy organizations and persons it targets as “hate groups” or as members of “hate groups” as a matter of “political struggle,” even if those targets do not qualify based on the broadly-understood definitions above.

Right, but that’s the very nature of speech. The intent of free speech is to allow people and groups to try to persuade others of something. And, if that persuasion includes convincing others not to do business with you, that’s fair game.

I dunno. This is the part of the whole thing I find really persuasive. "Hate group" is a term with a pretty standard, commonly-understood meaning. If they are deliberately applying that term to people or organizations that don’t fit that meaning, to cause people to believe that they are hate groups by the commonly-understood meaning, well… we have a word for that: lying.

They are telling lies about organizations with the deliberate intent to cause harm to them, to "destroy [those] organizations" as they themselves acknowledge. That’s another concept we have a word for, and that word is defamation.

You cover a lot of bogus defamation suits on here, but this one looks like the real deal.

But this post is directed towards other folks as well: those who think SLPC has a bit of an itchy trigger finger in declaring someone part of a hate group (or declaring groups as hate organizations)

I wouldn’t quite say that. Rather, while acknowledging the good work they’ve done in the past, I would point out that they are not immune to Nietzsche’s famous warning about He Who Hunts Monsters, nor to the Shirky Principle: "Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution." In recent years, as the actual hatred they fought against has steadily diminished, the SPLC have undergone a Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation, becoming a full-on hate group (by the proper definition) themselves.

I don’t know anything about Gavin McInnes or the Proud Boys; this article was the first I’ve ever heard of either of them. But given the SPLC’s recent track record, it seems more likely that he’s just another one of their victims rather than a legitimate bad guy, and it’s good to see someone trying to hold them accountable for what sure looks like real defamation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You cover a lot of bogus defamation suits on here, but this one looks like the real deal.

That is your opinion. It is a bullshit with no basis in fact. But I promise you I won’t sue you because of that wrong opinion.

This is clear protected option. Even the lawsuit itself agrees that what they say is protected opinion.

This is the equivalent of pissing your pants and then suing the guy who pointed it out to you for looking at your junk.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Since when is the diktat of a bunch of tribalists that every sjw and tribalist organizations takes as godly, immutable verdict such a thing? Since when is the clear act of smearing someone just because he refuses to swallow your bs an opinion?

Spin this around. Since when is the diktat of a bunch of thugs that every nazi and thug organzation takes as godly, immutable verdict such a thing?

Seriously. It’s hilarious how many of the people screaming about how the SPLC deserves to get sued for calling the Proud Boys a hate group ALSO goes around screaming that the SPLC is evil "SJWs". You calling SPLC "SJWs" is just as protected as SPLC calling the Proud Boys nazis. It’s literally the same thing. These are statements of opinion classifying someone into a group for the purpose of ridicule from others who share the same viewpoint.

I don’t like either the Proud Boys or the SPLC, but I support each of their rights to label the other whatever they want. It is the very nature of the 1st Amendment and protecting political speech.

If you think that it is not free speech for SPLC to label the Proud Boys a hate group, do you similarly think it’s defamatory when the President classifies undocumented people in the US as rapists and criminals?

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Your assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, "hate group" does have a very clear meaning. As a few people have already brought up, there’s an official definition that the FBI uses. There’s also the intuitive definition that the general public uses. If you were to ask 100 random "persons on the street" in the USA what a hate group is, at least 80 of them would almost certainly specifically mention, by name, the KKK or neo-nazi skinheads. (Or both.)

When you take something that well-understood, and then say "these people are like those people," that conveys a very concrete meaning to the minds of those who hear it. And as the article points out:

Indeed, in a 2018 Washington Post article, SPLC President Richard Cohen admitted to journalist David Montgomery that it does not matter to SPLC whether the use of SPLC Hate Designations is accurate in terms of identifying conduct motivated by actual “hate,” because its use is part of SPLC’s “effort to hold them accountable for their rhetoric and the ideas they are pushing.”

The guy directly acknowledged that he’s using a loaded term out of context and "it doesn’t matter" because apparently the political ends justify the dishonest, malicious means.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

What you think makes them guilty is actually what makes them innocent.

The fact that they are, and always have been, clear and open about the criteria they use to label something a "hate group" is a big part of why this isn’t defamation. You can go on and on about what other people think it means: that’s irrelevant. The SPLC has been very clear about what they mean by it, how they apply the label, and what they are basing that choice on for any given group.

It’s an opinion, based on clearly disclosed facts. It’s not defamation. Deal with it.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Your assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, "hate group" does have a very clear meaning.

  1. No, it doesn’t have a "clear meaning." It’s very much in the eye of the beholder. Same as "hate speech" which is why we oppose laws against it (as should you).
  2. Even so, it is a clear statement of opinion by the organization making it, even if you and I disagree with their assessment.

Your real problem is that you don’t like SPLC, and therefore you immediately assume that their bad opinion must be illegal. That’s a really dangerous position, Mason, and I’d think you’d recognize that.

As a few people have already brought up, there’s an official definition that the FBI uses.

There’s a definition of "happy" in the dictionary too, and it’s still an opinion for me to say "Mason sure seems happy." There’s a definition of "asshole" too.

These are still statements of opinion, not fact.

And that the FBI has a definition of hate group is potentially an legal issue that said groups can raise… with the FBI. Not with some other group that has its own definitions.

There’s also the intuitive definition that the general public uses.

Which remains a matter of opinion by the general public. Having a definition does not mean something is factual. There’s a question: can it definitively be proven true or false? Hate group cannot. It is absolutely within the eye of the beholder. I can call someone a petulant ignorant asshole. Each of those words have definitions. But it is still a matter of opinion EVEN IF everyone else in the world thinks the person I called that is actually a friendly, wise and giving individual.

Insults are not defamation.

The guy directly acknowledged that he’s using a loaded term out of context and "it doesn’t matter" because apparently the political ends justify the dishonest, malicious means.

This is pretty funny if you’ve followed any of Gavin’s own career (which you admit that you do not).

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

You still seem to be missing the point. It doesn’t matter if it’s a "statement of opinion, not fact."

Let’s establish a few baseline facts first. I hope these simple points are clear enough that no one will find a reason to disagree with them:

  • The SPLC "stating their opinion" has caused real harm to others as a direct result of people accepting and acting on that opinion.
  • In most of these cases the SPLC knew–or at least they had no valid excuse not to know–that people would act upon their words in the same general way as what actually ended up happening. (In other words, the harmful effects that occurred were very easily predictable before the opinions were given.)
  • The SPLC freely acknowledges that their "opinion" being "stated" is not in line with the common understanding of the matters they are opining upon.

These things being true, how do you arrive at a conclusion that it is just to not hold them accountable for the harm that transpired? (In addition to, and not instead of, the people who personally committed the harmful acts.)

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

I think Mason’s right on this one. Typically, "heckler’s veto" refers to instances where speech is suppressed out of fear of retaliation against the speaker.

Wikipedia:

Heckler’s veto is an American free speech term describing situations in which a party who disagrees with a speaker’s message is able to unilaterally trigger events that result in the speaker being silenced.

In other words, a court can’t issue a ruling stating "The SPLC can’t say this because someone might attack the SPLC."

What Mason’s suggesting isn’t that; he’s suggesting the court should issue a ruling stating "The SPLC can’t say this because someone might attack one of the groups that the SPLC criticizes."

Different targets, see?

What Mason is proposing isn’t a heckler’s veto. He seems to be suggesting that the SPLC is inciting violence. He’s wrong (see my comments below on the Brandenburg test), but that’s still not a heckler’s veto.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

These things being true, how do you arrive at a conclusion that it is just to not hold them accountable for the harm that transpired

Because they have freedom of speech, and they are not liable for what other people do with their clearly expressed opinions. What part of this are you not understanding?

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

At groups large enough for their behavior to best be understood statistically rather than individually, it really is. If you present the same stimulus to a large group of people, a certain number of them are going to react in very predictable ways. (This is the basic principle behind advertising, among other things.) Human nature doesn’t change, and we’ve had a pretty solid grasp on the basic points thereof for a long time now.

For just one example, look up "The Book of Swindles" sometime. It was originally written in 1617 in China, as a comprehensive guide to swindling and fraud and how to protect oneself therefrom, but sooooo much of it, if you take out the culture-specific stuff and focus on the human behavior principles involved, remains perfectly applicable even now, in the USA in the Age of the Internet, half a world away and 4 centuries later.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

At groups large enough for their behavior to best be understood statistically rather than individually, it really is.

No, it really isn’t. But you’re just engaging in pretentious, meandering babble at this point. You’ve lost this one Mason – your opinion on the SPLC lawsuit is, in a word, garbage. And it exposes your professed belief in free speech as false and self-serving. Protest further all you wish – I’ve made up my mind.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

I hope these simple points are clear enough that no one will find a reason to disagree with them:

I have to disagree with ALL of them.

 

The SPLC "stating their opinion" has caused real harm to others as a direct result of people accepting and acting on that opinion.

Unless their opinion is "directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action" their speech is protected by the First Amendment. Doesn’t really matter what other peoples actions are.

 

In most of these cases the SPLC knew–or at least they had no valid excuse not to know–that people would act upon their words in the same general way as what actually ended up happening. (In other words, the harmful effects that occurred were very easily predictable before the opinions were given.)

Same answer as above.

 

The SPLC freely acknowledges that their "opinion" being "stated" is not in line with the common understanding of the matters they are opining upon.

Not sure how that matters at all. Morons and idiots are allowed to express their opinions and it’s still protected speech.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

You made a claim about legal liability.

"Even assuming all your claims are true, there’s still no legal liability" is a perfectly valid way to respond to a claim of legal liability. Indeed, that’s almost certainly the standard that the judge will use to dismiss this lawsuit.

It doesn’t mean that your claims are true. It just means that it doesn’t matter if they’re true or not; either way, the SPLC is not legally liable for actions taken by others against individuals or groups that it criticizes.

If you want to argue about whether the SPLC is morally responsible for actions committed against people or groups who appear on its list, you’re welcome to do so. But once again, you’re mixing up your opinion about what’s right or wrong with what the law says is legal or illegal. They’re not the same thing. It’s okay to talk about what you think the law should be, but don’t claim that’s the same thing as what the law is.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

You still seem to be missing the point. It doesn’t matter if it’s a "statement of opinion, not fact."

Unless you’re suing somebody for defamation. In which case it matters very much.

These things being true, how do you arrive at a conclusion that it is just to not hold them accountable for the harm that transpired? (In addition to, and not instead of, the people who personally committed the harmful acts.)

This is a useful opportunity for further discussion on the difference between opinions and facts.

What is or is not just is an opinion.

The legal standards for defamation are facts. Case law defining the limits of the First Amendment is a fact. The text of the legal filings in this case is a fact.

Whether or not you personally consider something to be just is completely irrelevant to its merits as a legal argument presented in a court of law.

You can argue about what the law should be if you like; that’s fine. But don’t mix up what you think the law should be with what the law actually is.

You seem to be making an argument that the SPLC’s list of hate groups qualifies as incitement. There are two problems with such an argument:

  1. It isn’t. The Brandenburg test defines incitement in First Amendment case law. It’s also called the "imminent lawless action" test, and here’s what it looks like:

    the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.

    The three key components are intent, imminence, and likelihood. Even if your argument is correct that the SPLC’s hate list fits intent and likelihood (and that’s debatable), it fails the imminence test. Imminence as a legal standard is narrowly defined. Here’s Ken White:

    Imminent, for Brandenburg purposes, doesn’t mean "in a few months once some nut has thought about it." It’s intended to capture the danger of a firebrand whipping up an angry crowd with the means and target of violence close at hand.

    Now, you’re welcome to argue that Brandenburg was wrongly decided and that the Brandenburg test is too narrow. That’s a valid opinion! But it’s not the law. Again, you’re free to argue what you believe the law should be, but don’t confuse that with what the law actually is.

  2. Even if it were incitement, this is a defamation suit. You seem to be having trouble (again) with a simple principle of US law: courts don’t get to decide on arguments that aren’t presented to them. You’re looking at a defamation suit and saying "Okay, but what if it’s incitement?" Judges don’t get to do that. If you bring a defamation suit, the judge can’t rule "This isn’t defamation, but it is incitement. Guilty!" That’s not a thing. If the lawsuit makes no claim of incitement, than the court can make no finding of incitement.

    The question before the court isn’t "Is this incitement?" It’s "Is this defamation?" And the answer is "No." And the reason the answer is "No" is that opinions can’t be defamatory, only false facts can be defamatory.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

You still seem to be missing the point. It doesn’t matter if it’s a "statement of opinion, not fact."

It most certainly DOES matter when the issue is a defamation lawsuit.

Let’s establish a few baseline facts first. I hope these simple points are clear enough that no one will find a reason to disagree with them:

Okay…

The SPLC "stating their opinion" has caused real harm to others as a direct result of people accepting and acting on that opinion.

This is not the standard for defamation. Nor do you want it to be. If your opinion is that the SPLC has caused harm, and they absolutely disagree with you, do you want to face a lawsuit for expressing your opinion? Also, your statement here is one of opinion. "Real harm" is a subjective standard, rather than an objective one.

In most of these cases the SPLC knew–or at least they had no valid excuse not to know–that people would act upon their words in the same general way as what actually ended up happening.

Once again, this is not the standard for defamation. Indeed, as Thad explains to you elsewhere, this is not the standard for incitement, which is the legal theory you’re trying to dance towards (and which Gavin’s filing does not include, because SPLC’s efforts clearly don’t meet that standard).

The SPLC freely acknowledges that their "opinion" being "stated" is not in line with the common understanding of the matters they are opining upon.

You assert a "common understanding" that I think many — including SPLC — would disagree with.

In other words, all of your "factual statements that no one will find a reason to disagree over them" are all actually statements of opinion. They also are all stated in a manner that some might argue completely misrepresent SPLC and its actions. Under YOUR definition of defamation, they could then sue you.

Furthermore, none of what you’ve asserted above applies to the standard of defamation.

These things being true, how do you arrive at a conclusion that it is just to not hold them accountable for the harm that transpired?

Beyond the fact, as explained above, that I don’t believe you’ve stated clearly labeled and agreed upon "facts," in the US we don’t generally hold a speaker responsible for the actions of others. You know this, because you’ve supported it in other contexts. Yet here, suddenly, you’re eager to support this horrific concept. I do wonder why.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Pffft! Tell that to the guy who got shot because he was on the SPLC’s list.

It appears you’re discussing this case:

https://www.cnn.com/2013/02/06/justice/dc-family-research-council-shooting/index.html

That’s a good example that helps prove my point of why we don’t blame someone for their speech due to the following actions by other unstable people.

Do we blame Sarah Palin for Gabbie Giffords getting shot?
Do we blame Jodie Foster for Ronald Reagan getting shot?
Do we blame the Beatles for the Manson murders?

No, of course not. The fact that people can take someone else’s statements and go commit violence claiming it was because of their statements is not a reason to hold the speaker liable. That would be an absolutely crazy standard.

How about one more: Do we blame Gavin McInnes for Proud Boys stomping on protesters following a McInnes speech? Under your definition, that was "real harm" and it came directly after McInnes spoke and riled up his fans. Is he legally liable?

Either way, your appeal to emotion notwithstanding, it doesn’t change the point I was making. What Mason pointed out above has no impact on a defamation analysis under law.

Adrian Lopez says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"As a few people have already brought up, there’s an official definition that the FBI uses. There’s also the intuitive definition that the general public uses."

Then there’s the one the SPLC is using, and the one the UK government might use, and the one Germany might use, and the one Gavin McInnes and his lawyer Ron Coleman might use, and the one I would use, and so on ad nauseam.

A. Ron Dissement says:

Re: Re: If not objective, then it's a smear.

So there’s an objectively falsifiable, legally-cognizable definition of "hate group"? What about "hate speech"?

SPLC is claiming that there IS, and it’s sufficient cause for decent people to shun and refuse to deal with Plaintiff, so the burden is upon the Defendant to define the term objectively.

I read that you claim to be a lawyer, likely won’t agree with my notion there, so the question is best settled this way:

Is it acceptable that a large, well-funded, well-established, and reputable entity make endless public smears that cannot be objectively defined… ABOUT YOU?

Even if "legal", it’s undesirable. While this suit may not succeed, these well-funded but un-founded smears should provoke legislation to stop them.

What’s "cognizable" is the real damage that such smears cause, and I’d like to see a jury of my peers decide such, not some hair-splitting legalist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: If not objective, then it's a smear.

Is it acceptable that a large, well-funded, well-established, and reputable entity make endless public smears that cannot be objectively defined… ABOUT YOU?

I think this is one of those irregular verbs. I review, you criticize, he smears. It’s just different ways of saying "express a negative opinion." Ain’t no such thing as an objectively defined opinion: if you have an objective definition, it’s a fact.

If you have the right to a negative opinion about anyone else, then they have a right to express a negative opinion about you. Human rights are human rights, regardless of how rich or famous or popular either one of you are. If you drag any such distinction into a discussion of human rights, you’re actively promoting injustice.

In short, you want to dislike them? It’s my duty to defend their right to dislike you–publicly.

Even if "legal", it’s undesirable.

I would desire that both of you stop hating. But given that you can both talk and write, what you’re going to write is what comes out of both your hearts. You gotta change your heart first, then perhaps you can go talk to them.

While this suit may not succeed, these well-funded but un-founded smears should provoke legislation to stop them.

Some thinks simply can’t be stopped by legislation, and it’s insanity to try. But if we’re going to stop stuff by legislation, perhaps we could start by stopping violence, burglary, armed robbery, sexual assault, and distribution of toxic addictive substances. Oh, wait …

You can’t just dump laws on people and force them to think differently. You have to communicate with them. There was once-upon-a-time a religion that talked about "treating people like you want to be treated." You could start by defending their right to suspect you of hate. If there’s anything that would convince them they’re wrong, that would be it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:Youre as wrong about this as you are common law

The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress…

In his complaint, Mr McInnes alleges four causes of action —

  • (p.40) Count I. Tortious Interference With Economic Advantage
  • (p.41) Count II. Defamation
  • (p.58) Count III. False Light Invasion Of Privacy
  • (p.58) Count IV. Aiding And Abetting Employment Discrimination Pursuant To N.Y. Labor Law § 201-d

Don’t see IIED in those four counts there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: If not objective, then it's a smear.

Is it acceptable that a large, well-funded, well-established, and reputable entity make endless public smears that cannot be objectively defined… ABOUT YOU?

Yes.

Don’t believe me? What, exactly, is the difference between something like the SPLC and say… The Onion, aside from the fact that The Onion publishes actual lies? The Onion is well funded and well established and a few dupes do actually believe what they publish. Should it be illegal for them to write objectionable stories about people? Because aside from the shield of being utterly ridiculous they would be absolutely defamatory.

The SPLC is well within its rights to publish truthful information about whatever it wants and label it however it wants, even if those labels make people look bad. It can label you a demon sent straight from Lucifer’s anus to born on Earth in order to assassinate the second coming of Christ if they want to. It can say you want desperately to rape and murder every toddler from Nome to Miami. It can declare you the most dangerous threat to human existence if the whim crossed its mind.

It’s certainly allowed to do all of that. Whether anyone takes them seriously is another matter. And if they do target you with speech you find offensive or incorrect you have a defense: More speech. The answer to bad speech isn’t to shut down those who are wrong, its to meet them in the marketplace of ideas and let reason stand on its own. You’d think alt-right people would understand this since they get (unfairly) shut down so often, but I guess it’s not really and never was about principles. It’s just about your tribe getting one up on the other tribe.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: If not objective, then it's a smear.

SPLC is claiming that there IS, and it’s sufficient cause for decent people to shun and refuse to deal with Plaintiff, so the burden is upon the Defendant to define the term objectively.

You should get a refund on your law degree if you think that’s how the burden of proof works in defamation cases….

Is it acceptable that a large, well-funded, well-established, and reputable entity make endless public smears that cannot be objectively defined… ABOUT YOU?

Yes. That’s called freedom of speech, which is allowed in large part thanks to the 1st Amendment which bars government action against such speech.

Even if "legal", it’s undesirable.

It is undesirable to enable free speech, because someone’s opinions might have a negative impact on someone’s life? Really? You sure you want to go down that road?

What’s "cognizable" is the real damage that such smears cause, and I’d like to see a jury of my peers decide such, not some hair-splitting legalist.

So, if you have a negative opinion of me, and it leads people to like Techdirt less, I can sue you for damages?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 If not objective, then it's a smear.

So, if you have a negative opinion of me, and it leads people to like Techdirt less, I can sue you for damages?

I think it’s more like: if you label me as part of a hate group (or a Nazi), and someone decides to assault or kill me because of it, you should be held responsible for your reckless behavior.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 If not objective, then it's a smear.

Most responsible, yes. Only one responsible, no.

So then, would you support a change to the current very-high bar for incitement to violence as an exception to speech?

As it stands, you can only be held responsible for incitement if your speech is intended and likely to cause imminent unlawful action, not simply any action that is inspired by it after the fact. So if you’re leading a rally and you point at someone and say "grab that guy and lynch him right now", that would cross the line – but even if you say something as odious as "we should lynch people" and later someone does, you’re not legally responsible.

So when Gavin McInnes goes on the Joe Rogan show and says "go out and choke a tranny", he’s currently not liable if someone who watches it goes out and chokes someone – even though he was making a general call for violence, he wasn’t making a specific call that was designed to immediately produce unlawful action.

Are you calling for a change to that standard?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 If not objective, then it's a smear.

Sounds as though you support the claim that political posters showing your opponent’s head with a rifle scope reticle superimposed constitutes incitement of violence against that person.

One such incident occurred but was met with much hand waving, excuse making and other such silliness as everyone knows wtf was going on.

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re: To my surprise...

It looks like there is, in fact, a definition accepted by the U.S. Government, if not enshrined in law.

"Hate Group–An organization whose primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons of or with a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity which differs from that of the members or the organization, e.g., the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi Party."

Page 15 of this PDF, the FBI’s Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual: https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime-data-collection-guidelines-and-training-manual.pdf

According to Wikipedia, the FBI’s definition has remained largely unchanged since at least 1999.

If this counts as a legally-citable definition (IANAL, so all I can tell you is "this is not a law, per se"), then the debate is no longer on whether "hate group" is an opinion about whether a group is hateful, but rather, upon whether it is a matter of opinion that an organization’s primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against one of the listed classes.

Worthy of note: "political beliefs" are not one of the listed classes. Attacking liberals or democrats because said liberals or democrats are African-Americans: yes. Attacking liberals or democrats because said liberals or democrats are homosexuals: yes. Attacking liberals or democrats because said liberals or democrats are non-binary genderqueer munchkins: yes. Attacking liberals or democrats simply because they are liberals or democrats. no.

If this is not a legally-citable definition, then I believe the article holds without question.

If it is, well, it’s still an extremely uphill battle. Here’s a couple of other articles (one with a direct relation to each side, to keep it fair!) that haven’t been affected by defamation lawsuits:

[https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-racist-racism-white-supremacy-hate-group-727773%5D(12/21/17: Newsweek article starts out with, "Donald Trump is a one-man hate group.")

[https://townhall.com/columnists/joshgoldstein/2017/07/26/splc-hate-group-n2360208%5D(7/26/17: TownHall article titled, "Southern Poverty Law Center Is a Hate Group")

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re: Re: To my surprise...

(Note for TechDirt webmasters: it would be nice to have a "preview" option when submitting comments so that we can see when we mess up our markdown, heh.)

As far as legal searches for "hate group", I found one undefined reference in federal statutes. Additionally, the term was added to the heading of the section in 1996, and removed again in 2002.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/481 (on discrimination in the military)

"Each such survey shall be conducted so as to identify and assess the extent (if any) of activity among such members that may be seen as so-called “hate group” activity."

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re: Re:3 To my surprise...

Welp. That it is. Right there. The very button I lamented not existing. Next to the button I had to push to send my lament of non-existence.

I’d blame it on the liquor, except I don’t drink.

I’d blame it on the moon, except I’m a non-lycanthropic cis-dude.

I’d blame it on optical deformities, except I’m wearing my glasses.

I’d blame it on Mike for conspiring with Google to hide it from me until I complained about it, except I’m not blue.

So according to music, that leaves to blame it on the boogie, the rain, the stones, the sun, the bossa nova, the summer night, my last affair, or me.

Gonna have to go with Evanascence here. You can blame it on me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: To my surprise...

The thing is, Coleman has already stated that their hate group classification is a matter of opinion — and the SPLC isn’t referencing the FBI definition from what I can see.

As far as this case goes, that means the argument about an accepted definition holds no water. If Coleman were to revise the case, it might have legs — he has a number of good points, but has founded all his arguments on a platform that doesn’t exist.

This brings me to a few other observations:

1) is it possible that Coleman intentionally (and under misguided instruction from his client) torpedoed this case so it would be thrown out? And/or could his inclusion of the hate crime bits be so that the courts would possibly put forward some opinion that the designation of hate speech itself is unconstitutional?

2) The job of a lawyer is to represent the client. So while all the flaws in this case need to be put at Coleman’s door, calling his reputation into question for representing someone with whom we disagree does not look good on TechDirt, even if it’s once again subjective. Sure, he’s the prosecuting attorney and chose to take this case, but I’m all for legal discourse as well as free speech, as long as it doesn’t head into SLAPP territory — which this suit may just enter (but that’s a matter of opinion too until proven otherwise).

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 To my surprise...

The thing is, Coleman has already stated that their hate group classification is a matter of opinion — and the SPLC isn’t referencing the FBI definition from what I can see.

Yes, that’s the point. Words have meanings. "Hate group" means something to most people: it means the Klan. It means neo-Nazis. It means a very specific mental image, and the SPLC is well-aware of that. Playing Humpty Dumpty and declaring that they’re using their own personal definition instead of the real one that everyone else uses is incredibly dishonest, and deliberately doing so to cause harm to others is defamation.

If I said "Fred is a killer," and then Fred sued me for defamation, and I tried to weasel out of it by saying "oh, by ‘killer’ I don’t actually mean ‘person who kills someone else;’ I was using my own special definition that means something else entirely!", would you expect any reasonable court to buy that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 To my surprise...

would you expect any reasonable court to buy that?

Yes because what you said is clearly opinion. And "Killer" has wide interpretation in the current culture across multiple other areas. Like you could say your intention was to say "Fred is a lady killer". That has a completely different connotation. Even if you meant "Fred is a murderer", I would imagine nearly any court would see that as hyperbole and/or opinion.

Now if you said "I saw Fred murder a young woman named Nancy on 5th and vine" – that is likely actionable.

But I am not a lawyer, so take all of this with some salt.

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re: Re:3 To my surprise...

Not that you your point is entirely meaningless… but I feel like a tongue-in-cheek response must be made to your analogy.

Yo, dude, you’re killing it on the drums!

That’s a killer shirt. Far out.

Be careful, that Mr. Casanova fellow is a reknowned lady-killer.

Though Mr. Smith gave long, passionate pleas against the defendant, the cross-examination absolutely killed him.

Context is as important as the word choice itself.

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re: Re:5 To my surprise...

Remember, lawyers and lawmakers are generally the most pedantic people on the planet, so it’s important to dip into pedantry now and then when discussing it, because that’s how the lawyers will interpret it on both sides of a case.

It still depends on how you said it, where you said it, and what results it had.

If it doesn’t harm Frank’s reputation any, then it’s a no-show no matter what you said. You can say it all you want on comment boards and to your Mom and at the local pub, but unless Frank is adversely affected, and what you said was a direct cause of his adverse affect, it’s not defamation.

If you publish a news article that says "Frank is a killer", and he gets fired or harassed by people who read the article, now Frank has a case.

If Frank actually killed someone, or has claimed to be one, it’s not defamation. (This is the Truth defense.)

If you prefaced it with "I suspect" or "It seems like" or "I am convinced that" or any other number of wide-ranging qualifiers that show you’re not presenting it as a cold, hard fact, it’s not defamation. (This is the Opinion defense.)

If you state it in such a way that it is unlikely to be reasonably interpreted as being presented as truth, it’s not defamation. (This is the InfoWars defense, and the historical fiction defense.)

If you were writing in satire or parody, it’s not defamation. (This is the Onion defense.)

If you were passing along a statement made by someone else, it’s not defamation. (This is the Buzzfeed Russia leak defense.)

If Frank is a public figure, such as, oh, say, the leader of a national group that shows up to controversial rallies, or even someone who was in attendance at a controversial rally, he has to prove that you said it while already knowing (or not caring) that what you said was false, and that you said it in an intentional attempt to cause harm to him. (This is the Donald Trump Twitter defense.)

If Frank already had a bad reputation before you said anything, you might not be immune from punishment, but it makes it a lot harder for him to prove that you’re the reason why something bad happened to him. (This is the anti-Joe Arpaio defense.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Milkovich v Lorain Joural [was To my surprise...]

If you prefaced it with "I suspect" or "It seems like" or "I am convinced that" or any other number of wide-ranging qualifiers that show you’re not presenting it as a cold, hard fact, it’s not defamation. (This is the Opinion defense.)

That’s not what then-Chief Justice Rehnquist said in the landmark case of Milkovich v Lorain Journal (1990). Rather, in that case, he wrote for the court—

If a speaker says, “In my opinion John Jones is a liar,” he implies a knowledge of facts which lead to the conclusion that Jones told an untruth. Even if the speaker states the facts upon which he bases his opinion, if those facts are either incorrect or incomplete, or if his assessment of them is erroneous, the statement may still imply a false assertion of fact. Simply couching such statements in terms of opinion does not dispel these implications; and the statement, “In my opinion Jones is a liar,” can cause as much damage to reputation as the statement, “Jones is a liar.” As Judge Friendly aptly stated: “[It] would be destructive of the law of libel if a writer could escape liability for accusations of [defamatory conduct] simply by using, explicitly or implicitly, the words “I think.’ ”

It seems to me rather likely that Milkovich v Lorain Journal will be cited in the upcoming briefing, so everyone who’s interested might as well read through it now, and find out what it actually says — if they aren’t already familiar with it.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Milkovich v Lorain Joural [was To my surprise...]

As Judge Friendly aptly stated: “[It] would be destructive of the law of libel if a writer could escape liability for accusations of [defamatory conduct] simply by using, explicitly or implicitly, the words “I think.’ ”

Yes, this exactly. If there exists some magic weasel words that act as a get-out-of-defamation-free card, then it basically renders the entire notion of defamation meaningless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Milkovich v Lorain Joural [was To my surprise...]

Yes, this exactly. If there exists some magic weasel words that act as a get-out-of-defamation-free card, then it basically renders the entire notion of defamation meaningless.

This is not the argument made in the lawsuit. The lawsuit acknowledges that the SPLC’s designations are statements of opinion – but claims that because some people give them great weight and use them as though they were objective determinations, the SPLC should be held liable for them as if they were statements of fact. It has nothing to do with weasel words, and SPLC designations are not preceded with "I think" anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Milkovich v Lorain Joural [was To my surprise...

Seems to me you two are in agreement but misunderstanding each other, at least in the latter case. Mason didn’t say that an opinion is automatically free from defamation. Quite the opposite. He’s arguing that even an opinion can be defamation and that there is no way to couch an opinion in such a way as to avoid potential defamation.

I’m neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Milkovich v Lorain Joural [was To my surpris

That’s not the disagreement.

Yes, there are circumstances in which an opinion can be defamation – though they are very narrow. They aren’t really about the opinion itself being defamatory, but about the statement of opinion implying the knowledge of (false) facts that are themselves defamatory. But my point is: that’s a largely irrelevant conversation here, because that’s not the argument made in the lawsuit.

Rather, the lawsuit proposes an entirely new theory for how an opinion can become defamatory: the idea that if other groups, entirely independent of the speaker, give that opinion weight and defer to it as though it were fact, then the speaker’s free speech rights should be diminished and they should be liable for a statement of opinion which would otherwise be protected. That’s a very dangerous idea.

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Milkovich v Lorain Joural [was To my surprise...]

You are correct, the mere fact that it is phrased as opinion is not in itself a defense.

"A defamatory communication may consist of a statement in the form of an opinion, but a statement of this nature is actionable only if it implies the allegation of undisclosed defamatory facts as the basis for the opinion."

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Milkovich v Lorain Joural [was To my surprise...]

The lawsuit does not, however, allege this. It does not make the argument that the SPLC’s opinion implies the knowledge of undisclosed defamatory facts. At present, this does not appear to be an issue the SPLC will need to respond to or one the court will consider, as it has not been raised.

Rather, the lawsuit makes the argument that the statement of opinion that is the SPLC’s designation should be treated as a statement of fact.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Milkovich v Lorain Joural [was To my surprise...

Rather, the lawsuit makes the argument that the statement of opinion that is the SPLC’s designation should be treated as a statement of fact.

Which isn’t unreasonable in this particular case, even if it is in the general case (which I agree, it generally should be!) given that so many groups, including law enforcement agencies, are known to treat it as such.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Milkovich v Lorain Joural [was To my sur

That may be true for you and I (at least it would be in my case) because our opinions don’t hold sway over others to the degree that a public official’s or trusted organization’s opinions do. There has to be a line drawn somewhere to differentiate when someone’s opinion can be deemed defamatory simply due to their level of influence on others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:12 Milkovich v Lorain Joural [was To my

There has to be a line drawn somewhere to differentiate when someone’s opinion can be deemed defamatory simply due to their level of influence on others.

What do you mean there "has to be"? Why? Why should people’s free speech rights be contingent on what other people, who they have no control over, do?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’ll translate:
For someone who has never heard of either Mr. McInnes or Proud Boys, you sure are very confident that the SPLC is lying about them and their actions. I am saying that I think your claims of ignorance are you stretching the boundaries of truth.

Especially as a frequent commenter on this site. The Proud boys (and their "lawyer" JL Van Dyke) have appeared multiple times. You even commented on a Van Dyke article. So I find complete ignorance questionable.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I’ll translate: For someone who has never heard of either Mr. McInnes or Proud Boys, you sure are very confident that the SPLC is lying about them and their actions.

This is because, as I pointed out, I have heard of the SPLC and I’m familiar with their history, both early and recent.

Especially as a frequent commenter on this site. The Proud boys (and their "lawyer" JL Van Dyke) have appeared multiple times. You even commented on a Van Dyke article.

Lawyers frequently take on multiple clients. Who was JL Van Dyke representing in the article I commented on? (Which article was it anyway?)

Your insinuations notwithstanding, the fact remains that I’ve never heard of these guys before today. Please go away if you have nothing constructive to say.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

This is because, as I pointed out, I have heard of the SPLC and I’m familiar with their history, both early and recent.

Ahh so you believe that everyone they go after is being defamed? that SPLC only goes after good people?

Lawyers frequently take on multiple clients. Who was JL Van Dyke representing in the article I commented on? (Which article was it anyway?)

I do not have the article up anymore, but a simple site search your name and his will give you the article. Until recently Jason was pretty much only notable for being their lawyer. An asshole too. But mostly for his allegiance to that group. It is possible you read the article and the comments never once coming across the affiliation. But again, you frequent this site and they are a frequent topic. So I still doubt your claim.

Please go away if you have nothing constructive to say.
Bless your heart

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Dig up stupid

The fact remains you’ve done here today, what Mcinnis did to his reputation over the last couple years. By being mind bendingly obtuse, deliberately ignorant, and just dwarf stubborn, no matter how many times it’s pointed out you are manifestly wrong. You’ve made sure no one here who is remotely familiar with you will take one thing you say seriously from now on.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

What I said is that I know nothing about the plaintiff. But I do know about the defendant. Also, from the article:

To that end, SPLC acknowledges that its goal is to destroy organizations and persons it targets as “hate groups” or as members of “hate groups” as a matter of “political struggle,” even if those targets do not qualify based on the broadly-understood definitions above.

That right there, independent of the details of this case, is lying. They may not like the term, but that’s what it is. It’s lying with the deliberate, malicious intent to do harm to others, which is defamation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Wait. The lawsuit lays out both the FBI’s definition, as well as its own definition, of "hate group," and that quote from the lawsuit is criticizing it for not adhering to that definition of "hate group."

I can understand how labelling a group as a "hate group" contrary to your own definition would be lying, but how it "lying" to label such a group contrary to someone else’s definition, especially if you disagree on the definition of what constitutes a "hate group" in the first place?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This lawsuit is pointless

Paywall. For defamation, the devil is in the details. The case referenced that they settled may well have had merit where this one doesn’t.

With the paywall, though, all that’s available on that site is a brief blurb indicating that there’s going to be a settlement. Care to expound on the details of the case?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Hi Gavin! So glad you could join us.

You got nothing but personal insults eh? Not surprising since you seem to be a thin skinned prick. Maybe you should pick a friendlier forum, lest we start making fun of your white trash $8 costcutters coupon haircut. Also perhaps try dressing like an adult and not like your mom scored big off the clearance rack at JC Penny’s.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: This lawsuit is pointless

They apologized for labeling someone anti-Muslim, which can lead to a Fatwa, about the most serious consequence.

Should a court have said "this is opinion" even if it might have driven Muslim factions to kill the person? That’s not too far removed from what’s said here.

I see many who claim to be for equality stereotyping white men as evil, which I don’t think is fair.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Hate group" is a term with a pretty standard, commonly-understood meaning.

  1. What is that meaning?
  2. Can you make a case for why "the Proud Boys are a hate group" is a statement of fact, not of opinion?
  3. Can you make a case for why "the Proud Boys are a hate group" is a false statement of fact?

I don’t know anything about Gavin McInnes or the Proud Boys; this article was the first I’ve ever heard of either of them. But given the SPLC’s recent track record, it seems more likely that he’s just another one of their victims rather than a legitimate bad guy, and it’s good to see someone trying to hold them accountable for what sure looks like real defamation.

I mean, I guess if you’re going to defend white supremacists, it’s better to do it because you couldn’t be bothered to do a cursory Google search before opening your mouth than to do it intentionally. But you know, maybe next time try not defending white supremacists at all? That’s my recommendation.

Regardless of your opinion on the SPLC — and "they’re too trigger-happy in classifying organizations as hate groups" is a perfectly valid opinion! — declaring that Gavin McInnes is probably not a bad guy based solely on the fact that the SPLC says he is a bad guy is pretty specious reasoning. Maybe don’t do that.

You could have said "I’m not going to just take the SPLC’s word for it; I’ll have to look into this for myself." That would have been perfectly respectable. Jumping straight to white supremacists’ defense while admitting you have no idea who they are? Not a good look.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"Tied" by who? Folks like the SPLC? Yay for circular logic!

When your fundamental rules explicitly say that anybody who believes in the supremacy of one race over another, (specifically including white supremacists,) cannot become or remain a member of this organization, it’s a bit hard to credibly say that this organization is a bunch of white supremacists.

That’s a bit like saying "everyone in the No Lawyers Allowed Club is a practicing attorney at law!" It might be theoretically possible if the entire thing is a big lie, but it sounds kind of absurd on the face of it, especially when there are well-organized, well-funded groups (such as the SPLC) going around making spurious, malicious accusations for political purposes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

By default I’m more likely to err on the side of "they probably are white supremacists" but Mason is requesting evidence of their ties.

Your response doesn’t exactly do much to discount the points in the post you’ve responded to. Rather, if we could get some links to their white supremacist activities etc., that would be a better response.

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, and Article 13 is good for small businesses because it says so, and asset forfeiture doesn’t target innocent civilians because it says so.

If I put "This channel does not post copyright-infringing videos" on my YouTube channel, that statement or rule or by-law provides no legal proof that I’m not posting copyright-infringing videos. If I verifiably posted Harry Potter, it doesn’t matter if I said I didn’t. It doesn’t work like that, as much as Trump would like to believe otherwise.

Now, by no means am I arguing they do support white supremacy based on the fact that they include an anti-white-supremacy clause in one of their rules. That’s equally false and much more silly.

I’m merely stating that a rule alone isn’t admissible evidence in defense of their anti-white-supremacy. Fair and equal enforcement of said rule would be, as would a lack of reliable evidence of group members engaging in behavior typical of white supremacy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

https://www.vox.com/2018/10/15/17978358/proud-boys-gavin-mcinnes-manhattan-gop-violence

Yawn.

McInnes left Vice Media in 2008. Since then, he has moved to what he calls the “New Right,” which he seems to define as a combination of “Western chauvinism” and social and political libertarianism or perhaps libertinism (for example, he has written extensively on how women want to be “downright abused” and that he had to stop “playing nice” and begin “totally defiling the women I slept with” to get more women to have sex with him).

His shift to the far right also included espousing anti-Muslim sentiments (“the Muslim world is filled with shoeless, toothless, inbred, hill-dwelling, rifle-toting, sodomy-prone men”) and an embrace of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments, including a video he made for the far-right Canadian outlet Rebel Media initially called “10 Things I Hate about Jews” (or as he would later tweet, “10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT THE GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKING JEWS!”). He’s also argued that historically, perhaps Jews “were ostracized for a good reason.”

These videos, and some of his others, earned him a host of new fans, including David Duke. And though McInnes has attempted to push aside accusations of racism (which he argues doesn’t exist), he has written for both VDare and American Renaissance, the latter the publication of the “race-realist, white advocacy organization” New Century Foundation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Wait, disliking Islam is far right? Last I checked Islam IS the far right.

Rampant Misogyny? Yep, Islam is far right.

Women as property? Yep, Islam is far right.

Murdering Gays? Yep, Islam is far right.

Theocratic governments? Yep, Islam is far right.

Hating Jews? Yep, Islam is far right.

Islam is the religious right on steroids.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Were you aware that it is entirely possible to engage in/advocate for:

Rampant Misogyny
Women as property
Murdering Gays
Theocratic governments
Hating Jews

While simultaneously hating Islam and the people that follow it? Were you aware that it is, in fact, very common for right-wing fundamentalists, who may or may not advocate for all of the above, to additionally be incredibly vocally against Muslim/Islamic nations?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Interesting approach you’ve got here.

"I know nothing about the plaintiff, but I assume everything they say is true. I dislike the defendant, so I assume everything they say is a lie."

I mean, I can see why you’ve reached the conclusion that this is a valid suit, if that’s how you’re operating – not sure why you think anyone should care at all about your opinion though, given your predetermined conclusion.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

And here you lose all credibility. Try reading point 33 of the embedded complaint, which quotes from the Proud Boys bylaws, pointing out how they are explicitly anti-white-supremacy.

Oh, well that’s different, then. If they say they’re not racists, then I guess that means they must not be racists.

Followup question: how do you define "western chauvinism"? How is it distinct from white supremacy?

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And, now we have yet another similar case, this time involving Proud Boy
founder Gavin McInnes suing the Southern Poverty Law Center for
defamation concerning SPLC’s practice of naming certain individuals and
groups as "extremist" on its "Hatewatch" or "Extremist Files" lists.

The problem is the fact that not only do major media companies (CNN, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) take the SPLC’s determinations as gospel and act accordingly, but increasing so do government law enforcement agencies. You can be put on a government watchlist for no other reason than an SPLC brands you with ‘hate group’ designation.

If they’re going to be the de facto standard for both private and governmental sanction, then there ought to be a way of holding them accountable for their pronouncements.

Having said that, I’m not sure a defamation suit is the way to go about accomplishing that.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Having said that, I’m not sure a defamation suit is the way to go about accomplishing that.

Depends on how you define "accomplishing." Will it put an end to their politically-motivated serial libel if successful? Probably not. Will it be a meaningful, useful step towards that ultimate goal if successful? That’s more likely.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

How about working to change the practices of government and LEOs, so they don’t infringe civil rights on the basis of one private group’s say-so, at least not without a very transparent process for selecting and frequently reviewing such groups.

That is a much better approach than trying to punish SPLC for its free speech or exert government control over who expresses opinions and who in the public listens to them. You’d actually be increasing people’s civil rights, instead of diminishing them.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I dunno. This is the part of the whole thing I find really persuasive. "Hate group" is a term with a pretty standard, commonly-understood meaning.

No, it’s not. And, either way, it’s still a statement of opinion.

Indeed, it’s not very dissimilar from the smear from the McInnes and friends that a certain group or individual is an "SJW." Should be they be liable for calling someone an SJW if the reaction to that is that they are banned from certain platforms and they haven’t "proved" that the person in question engaged in efforts to promote "social justice"?

Hate group and hate speech are matters of opinion. Opinion is not defamation. That’s literally all there is to it.

If they are deliberately applying that term to people or organizations that don’t fit that meaning, to cause people to believe that they are hate groups by the commonly-understood meaning, well… we have a word for that: lying.

It’s still an opinion statement. And it is not lying to express your opinion. You and I may not like SPLC and their way of designating groups. I agree that they’re awful at it and have an itchy trigger finger that diminishes their reputation greatly. I also feel that others take the SPLC designations too seriously. But, again, it is their opinion and even if you want to make their opinion illegal (which, uh, has serious 1st amendment problems), it’s even more ridiculous to argue that other people’s reactions to someone’s opinion magically makes it defamatory.

You cover a lot of bogus defamation suits on here, but this one looks like the real deal.

It will be laughed out of court. It is not "the real deal." It is laughably bad.

They are telling lies about organizations with the deliberate intent to cause harm to them, to "destroy [those] organizations" as they themselves acknowledge. That’s another concept we have a word for, and that word is defamation.

No. That’s not how defamation works.

It’s also not how you want defamation to work if you truly believe in free speech.

In recent years, as the actual hatred they fought against has steadily diminished, the SPLC have undergone a Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation, becoming a full-on hate group (by the proper definition) themselves.

Fair enough. Are you okay if they sued you for defamation given that they clearly don’t meet the "commonly accepted" definition of hate group that you insist everyone knows?

I don’t know anything about Gavin McInnes or the Proud Boys

Sure, sure.

But given the SPLC’s recent track record, it seems more likely that he’s just another one of their victims rather than a legitimate bad guy, and it’s good to see someone trying to hold them accountable for what sure looks like real defamation.

So you speculate wildly based on admission that you don’t know the facts of the case, trashing SPLC’s reputation in the process. Under YOUR OWN (incorrect) definition of defamation, that’s defamation.

Nice job.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s also not how you want defamation to work if you truly believe in free speech.

It’s exactly how I want defamation to work, and it doesn’t conflict with a belief in free speech in any way. Free speech has never been an unlimited thing, and it’s never covered destroying someone’s reputation by spreading lies about them (aka defamation).

You and I may not like SPLC and their way of designating groups. I agree that they’re awful at it and have an itchy trigger finger that diminishes their reputation greatly. I also feel that others take the SPLC designations too seriously.

That’s the understatement of the year! When law enforcement organizations take their designations as gospel (which is a real thing that happens) and people get put on government watch lists because they were on the SPLC "hate list" (which is a real thing that happens) and people get shot because they were on the SPLC "hate list" (which is, again, a real thing that has happened,) how much further does it need to go before you acknowledge they’re crossing lines?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The word of the day is "incitement." Look it up, dood!

Hey, just a suggestion. If you are going to smugly suggest a legal point regarding a specific legal term that has a specific meaning within the law as regards to exceptions to the 1st amendment, you should probably understand that term.

Nothing SPLC did comes anywhere even in the same area code as incitement as defined by the Supreme Court over the years. It’s not even remotely close.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s exactly how I want defamation to work, and it doesn’t conflict with a belief in free speech in any way.

Then you literally do not believe in free speech, because you no longer support the right of criticism if it has an impact on someone’s livelihood.

Free speech has never been an unlimited thing, and it’s never covered destroying someone’s reputation by spreading lies about them (aka defamation).

You hit on an awful lot of these tropes: https://www.popehat.com/2015/05/19/how-to-spot-and-critique-censorship-tropes-in-the-medias-coverage-of-free-speech-controversies/

That’s the understatement of the year! When law enforcement organizations take their designations as gospel (which is a real thing that happens) and people get put on government watch lists because they were on the SPLC "hate list" (which is a real thing that happens) and people get shot because they were on the SPLC "hate list" (which is, again, a real thing that has happened,) how much further does it need to go before you acknowledge they’re crossing lines?

In any of the cases you describe, it is quite possible that individuals would have a clear cause of action <b>against the government</b>, because the government cannot do many of those things. Do they have a cause of action against a private organization stating an opinion. Hell no.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Mike, why are you acting like a garden-variety troll here and completely misrepresenting what he’s saying? Come on, you’re better than that!

Then you literally do not believe in free speech, because you no longer support the right of criticism if it has an impact on someone’s livelihood.

If it is a lie. Anyone who does support such criticism when it is a lie is simply not right in the head. That’s not "free speech;" that’s malicious evil.

You hit on an awful lot of these tropes: https://www.popehat.com/2015/05/19/how-to-spot-and-critique-censorship-tropes-in-the-medias-coverage -of-free-speech-controversies/

I see one that he hits on–the one about there being limits to free speech–which the author immediately goes on to say is indisputably true but is usually used to cover a bunch of "limits" that aren’t real, such as [a bunch of examples that are not what is being discussed here.] Elsewhere, it mentions that defamation is one of the few legitimate exception to free speech protections.

Sorry, Mike, but you are completely, totally, 100% in the wrong here, and continuing to double down on it is just making you lose respect.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I see one that he hits on

OK. How about this one that specifically discusses SPLC and hate group designation?
https://www.popehat.com/2017/06/29/how-the-southern-poverty-law-center-enraged-nominal-conservatives-into-betraying-free-speech-values/

Here, I will quote you a relevant paragraph so you can be lazy:

But the SPLC’s conduct is core, classic political speech. Ranting political generalizations about other people and groups and parties is exactly what the First Amendment protects. The SPLC’s classification of a dizzying array of entities as "hate groups" may be unfair, unprincipled, immature, and even immoral. But it’s also opinion absolutely protected by the First Amendment. Only provable statements of fact can be defamatory. It’s certainly possible that the SPLC could make a false and defamatory statement of fact about a group in the course of classifying it as a "hate group" — for instance, by falsely attributing a statement to the group, or falsely claiming the group participated in some specific act. But that’s not what’s at issue in Liberty Counsel’s cowardly-indirect attack on the SPLC. Their complaint says the defamation is the "hate group" classification. "Hate" and "hate group" are not provable statements of fact. They’re opinion. You may think the opinion is stupid and without basis, but that doesn’t magically turn it into a fact. You may think that having such an opinion expressed about you is very harmful, but that doesn’t turn it into a fact either. "Hate group" occupies a place in the American lexicon with "SJW" and "cuck" and "fake news" and "far left" and "extremist" and "death party" and "party of death" and "libtard" and "wingnut" and anything else you’ll see people shout at each other on Twitter. "Hate" and "hate group" aren’t factually provable, because they’re based on opinion. The opinion that being against gay marriage or affirmative action or generous immigration makes you a "hate group" may be stupid, but it’s inescapably an opinion.

…is just making you lose respect.

I am sure Mike is devastated that someone who is trying to limit free speech and open up libel/defamation lawsuits for protected speech is disappointed with him.

Matthew Cline (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

When law enforcement organizations take their designations as gospel (which is a real thing that happens) and people get put on government watch lists because they were on the SPLC "hate list" (which is a real thing that happens)

Then those organizations should be sued, and/or laws passed to prevent them from using the statements of a private organizations like that.

and people get shot because they were on the SPLC "hate list" (which is, again, a real thing that has happened,)

Lets say that say that I had a blog with a large following, and in the past when I’ve wrote "So-and-so is a horrible person" that So-and-so got shot at. Now if I’d cultivated an audience of people who are likely to go out and shoot anyone I declare to be a horrible person, or if elsewhere I’ve implied that anyone I declare a horrible person deserves to die, I could understand wanting to hold me accountable. Are you claiming that SPLC has acted like that? Or is it that you consider "hate group" to not be a statement of opinion while "horrible person" is a statement of opinion? Or, in my hypothetical situation do you think that once people started shooting at people I declared to be horrible that I should be legally required to keep my mouth shut even if I hadn’t done anything to influence the situation? If so, should I be held responsible if sharing true facts about So-and-so (which aren’t invasion of privacy or doxxing) leads to So-and-so getting shot?

Prinny says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Put it this way, dood. If you know (or reasonably should have known) that your actions will indirectly have certain harmful consequences, and you do it anyway, and harm occurs, you can still be held liable for any number of things, such as negligence or reckless endangerment, depending on the circumstances.

Why should it be any different if the action in question is telling lies about someone, rather than something more physical? Nobody likes double standards, except the sleazebags who profit off them.

If the SPLC knows ahead of time how people are using their words, and then they say something and people respond to it in a consistent, predictable manner, then yes, they absolutely are responsible for what happened. They’re not the only ones responsible, of course, but they definitely should share significantly in the blame and the punishment. Any law or ruling that says otherwise is horrendously unjust.

Matthew Cline (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

They’re not the only ones responsible, of course, but they definitely should share significantly in the blame and the punishment. Any law or ruling that says otherwise is horrendously unjust.

If that applies to not just lies, but also to opinions and true facts, then it gives a third parties the ability to unilaterally silence a speaker (heckler’s veto). If someone didn’t like John Doe talking about XYZ then they could anonymously threaten Doe that they’ll assault/murder a random person the next time Doe talks about XYZ, and then Doe will have to just hope that it’s a bluff if he wants to keep talking about the subject.

Or, as another scenario, say that there’s someone who is openly a neo-Nazi (self-identifies as a Nazi, swastika armband, etc). I truthfully say on Twitter that he’s a neo-Nazi, someone reads that and based on that knowledge goes out and shoots him. If I’m punished by the law because the shooter found out that info from me, people are going to think "this piece of information about So-and-so is going to make people pissed off at him, so maybe I’d better not share it".

Prinny says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

If that applies to not just lies, but also to opinions and true facts, then it gives a third parties the ability to unilaterally silence a speaker (heckler’s veto)

Yes, this is true, dood. Which is why I specifically said it should apply to lies, and did not say it should apply to the truth. Please don’t get into whataboutism here, dood!

Matthew Cline (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Please don’t get into whataboutism here, dood!

I wasn’t intending to imply that anyone here was being hypocritical. (Or, if by "whataboutism" you mean something other than "[…] a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent’s position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument …" then I’m not sure what you mean)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Opinion is not defamation [was ]

Opinion is not defamation. That’s literally all there is to it.

That’s not “all there is to it” —and I shouldn’t have to— but I’ll point you to Judge Saylor’s discussion of this exact point on pp.12-13 of Ayyadurai v Floor64 (D.Mass. 2017)

[B]ecause statements must be false to be actionable, “defamatory statements are not punishable unless they are capable of being proved true or false.” Accordingly, subjective statements and statements of opinion are protected under the First Amendment as long as they do not “present[] or impl[y] the existence of facts which are capable of being proven true or false.”

… which of course continues through…

Finally, “where a statement of ‘opinion’ on a matter of public concern reasonably implies false and defamatory facts regarding public figures or officials, those individuals must show that such statements were made with knowledge of their false implications or with reckless disregard of their truth,” or, in other words, with “actual malice.”

(Citations omitted in both extracts.)

In these paragraphs, as you know, Judge Saylor repeatedly cites Milkovich (1990). And that case very explicitly says:

We are not persuaded that, in addition to these protections, an additional separate constitutional privilege for "opinion" is required to ensure the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment.

So, it’s not “literally all there is to it”, and not only should you know better, but you ought to make sure that your readers are not misled on this point in this discussion.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Opinion is not defamation [was ]

So, it’s not “literally all there is to it”, and not only should you know better, but you ought to make sure that your readers are not misled on this point in this discussion.

I’m a little confused. Your quotations basically say that opinions are not defamation as long as those opinions are actually opinions and not presentations of untrue facts.

So where, exactly, is the "more" that isn’t part of the "literally all there is to it"?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Opinion is not defamation [was ]

So where, exactly, is the "more" that isn’t part of the "literally all there is to it"?

Did you notice that in summarizing the quotations, you yourself did not merely write “opinions are not defamation…”. Instead, you had to go on just a little bit there to write your own summary. Mike’s words, “literally all there is to it”, taken literally, state that you could have just stopped after the first phrase, “opinions are not defamation”. But you yourself didn’t stop there.

What makes this material is what the court said in Milkovich v Lorain Journal (1990).

In that case then-Chief Justice Rehnquist summed up that argument that was pressed upon that court, as—

Respondents would have us recognize, in addition to the established safeguards discussed above, still another First Amendment-based protection for defamatory statements which are categorized as "opinion" as opposed to "fact."

In other words, the respondents in that case essentially wanted he court to say what Mike said, “Opinion is not defamation. That’s literally all there is to it.”. The court explicitly declined that invitation.

The court, in characterizing their prior cases at that time, wrote—

[W]e do not think this passage from Gertz was intended to create a wholesale defamation exemption for anything that might be labeled "opinion."

And the court came to the conclusion—

We are not persuaded that, in addition to these protections, an additional separate constitutional privilege for "opinion" is required to ensure the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment.

So in this case, the court is rejecting that idea, “Opinion is not defamation. That’s literally all there is to it.”

Instead, as you yourself had to do in summarizing the extracts I provided earlier, the court has said there’s a bit more than that to the test.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Opinion is not defamation [was ]

That’s a lot of words to not answer the question. Here, I’ll help you.

An opinion can be defamatory if it implies false facts. "He’s a racist" is a protected opinion. "He’s a racist; I heard what he said when his mic was off and the cameras weren’t rolling" is a potentially defamatory opinion, because it implies facts that are not stated. If the person you’re talking about didn’t actually say anything when his mic was off and the cameras weren’t rolling, then that’s a defamatory statement of opinion.

So yes, it’s true that statements of opinion can be defamatory. However, I’m not seeing any evidence that that’s the case in this story.

The SPLC’s designation of the Proud Boys as a hate group is based on disclosed facts, which are detailed on SPLC’s website and in its literature. McInnes is not disputing that the quotes attributed to him and other Proud Boys are substantially accurate; instead, he’s nitpicking figures of speech like "winkingly". He’s disagreeing with the conclusions the SPLC has drawn, but not with the facts those conclusions are based on.

In other words, he doesn’t have a defamation case.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Opinion is not defamation [was ]

Exactly.

To make this even more direct for folks following along:

Statements of opinion can be defamatory, but not because the opinions themselves are defamatory.

Opinions are never defamatory. Statements of them can be, but only because they can imply something beyond the opinion itself

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Opinion is not defamation [was ]

So in this case, the court is rejecting that idea, “Opinion is not defamation. That’s literally all there is to it.”

That’s not my take on reading Milkovich. My opinion (lol) is that the court was saying this:

"Opinion is not defamation and the presentation of untrue facts is defamation, but the presentation of untrue facts couched within opinion can also be defamation."

 

Instead, as you yourself had to do in summarizing the extracts I provided earlier, the court has said there’s a bit more than that to the test.

I’m not sure I would word it that way myself. There isn’t really "a bit more than that to the test" because the "test" itself determines if the statement is truly opinion or not. Once it’s determined the statement is truly opinion, the defamation claim is denied.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Opinion is not defamation [was ]

… the "test" itself determines if the statement is truly opinion or not.

As long as you keep the test of falsifiability as the determiner of the category, then I don’t necessarily see a huge, immediate problem in using the label “opinion” as the name of of the category.

The huge problem down the road, though, is that there’s a tyranny to labels. They tend to become despotic.

When the test of set membership becomes abstractly shortened to whether the facts fit comfortably underneath the categorical label, then the name “opinion” starts to exert its own connotative aspects. You may begin to merely ask “is it opinion?” and thus neglect to actually ask, “are there falsifiable facts implicated?”

And that’s what I read the court as explicitly rejecting. The court doesn’t want the label —the name of the category— — “opinion” — to overwhelm the true test of set membership.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Opinion is not defamation [was ]

Why is this comment flagged?

I simply asked this AC to clarify his/her position and his/her response was well thought out and polite. We even came to understanding of each other’s position by the end of the thread, which ended being more of vernacular variation than anything else.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"I don’t know anything about Gavin McInnes or the Proud Boys"

I’ve heard of all 3, and let’s just say you’re defending a group described on Wikipedia as "a far-right neo-fascist organization that admits only men as members and promotes political violence" and a man who once shoved a dildo up his arse on video to make some kind of anti-liberal point because you don’t like the tactics of an anti-hate group organisation.

Opposing the SPLC does not always mean you’re on the right side of an argument, even if you do dislike them for whatever reason.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Because as everybody knows, no one ever puts biased or non-factual information on Wikipedia or abuses its free-to-everybody editing for political purposes, amirite?

Not saying you’re wrong, just that the more controversial a subject is, the less trustworthy a source Wikipedia becomes for accurate information. Do you have anything more solid?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I don’t really have time to be doing the full research and I’m going largely on prior knowledge here. But, let’s just say that while the SPLC and Wikipedia entries are the first Google results, searching on neither the man nor the organisation brings up anything particularly flattering. This isn’t "bad guy" SPLC going after clean cut innocent, no matter how much you hate SPLC.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: "I'm fully [hoping] this article to be overrun"

Actually, no. A writer does not always state a premise in the first sentence. Many writing styles, like the formal argumentative essay writing taught in American schools, advise or require that. But they are not the only writing styles.

One alternative style choice is to preface a piece with background information the reader should understand for context, or that they should keep in mind while reading, or to kibitz on the meta conversation outside the body of the piece.

Because of the blog format, the author doesn’t have a dedicated preface space, and so it must appear in the article.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Threats

SPLC libels Gavin.

Digital media tabloids run articles based on SPLC libel.

Neighbors read tabloid stories rooted in SPLC libel.

Gavin is annoyed that the libel has turned into a larger harassment campaign all rooted in lies. How dare the person libeled be upset to have his family subjected to this sort of treatment, all rooted in libel.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Re: Threats

Gavin is annoyed that the libel has turned into a larger harassment campaign all rooted in lies. How dare the person libeled be upset to have his family subjected to this sort of treatment, all rooted in libel.

Actually, Gavin is offended that a campaign against him based on facts has made him look bad. Proud Boys and Van Dyke have so many interesting things they have done. Pointing out their dickery isn’t libel. (But it is hilarious.)

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There is no such thing as a silly law suit against the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Yes. There is. This is one.

But, even taking your statement to mean (as I believe you intend) that the SPLC is a bad organization with bad opinions and malicious intent, to argue that it’s impossible for there to be a silly lawsuit against them is a statement that is, on its fact, ridiculous.

You are flat out saying that you don’t believe SPLC deserves to have its own speech protected because you don’t like that speech. Just admit that you wish to censor those you disagree with.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sham Exception

Filing a bullshit lawsuit is constitutionally protected…

Rather than digging up solid sources for the convoluted intricacies of the Noerr-Pennington doctrine, let me wave generally in the direction of Wikipedia’s discussion—

Exception for sham proceedings

There is a "sham" exception to the Noerr–Pennington doctrine which holds that using the petitioning process simply as an anticompetitive tool without legitimately seeking a positive outcome to the petitioning destroys immunity.

The Supreme Court has articulated a two-part test to determine the existence of "sham" litigation. First, such suits must be "objectively baseless in the sense that no reasonable litigant could realistically expect success on the merits." If that threshold is met, the court will inquire whether the suit demonstrates evidence of a subjective intent to use governmental process to interfere with a competitor’s business.

[Citations omitted.]

I’d caution readers that, of course, Wikipedia’s encyclopedic treatment is no substitute for more in-depth discussion, especially in a complicated field such as Noerr-Pennington doctrine.

However, I think this is enough to qualify Mike’s seemingly-confident assertion that “Filing a bullshit lawsuit is constitutionally protected.”. So, well, yeah… it can be… maybe mostly even… BUT… it depends…

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Sham Exception

You are correct, not all bogus lawsuits can be filed with impunity. Though, of course, there are three reasons why that particular exception wouldn’t apply to this kind of BS lawsuit.

  • Gavin isn’t providing any competing products or services to the SPLC, therefore he’s not subject to antitrust laws to begin with;
  • the lawsuit must be objectively baseless, and while they may be flimsy, far-fetched, and phantasmagorical, the lawsuit does have several bases of evidence that it’s attempting to balance on.
  • the lawsuit must be subjectively filed without hope of gaining anything, only to harm a competitor. Gavin isn’t a competitor of the SPLC, and if he wins an injunctment against being labelled a hate group, that would be something of gain to him. (Let alone the damages he seeks for being fired, displatformed, et al.)
BJC (profile) says:

Re: Sham Exception

I disagree with you on the breadth of the definition of "bullshit lawsuit."

Noerr-Pennington, like 28 U.S.C. 1927’s sanctions for vexatious litigation, is a constitutionally-permissible way to smack down an abusive lawsuit. But is an "abusive lawsuit" a "bullshit lawsuit"?

I don’t think it is. I think "bullshit lawsuits" may be stupid and wrong-headed, but if a lawsuit crosses into sanctionable territory, it’s something beyond a "bullshit lawsuit."

Anonymous Coward says:

after some of that university’s employees suggested Peterson was similar to Hitler and compared him to a white supremacist. As we pointed out then, even if this was misleading, having someone have a negative opinion of you, and even suggesting you hold views you might not hold, is far from defamatory.

People are harmed in response to false allegation of racism.

In Gavin’s case, he has been harmed in a number of ways based on false allegations.

When natural disaster or national emergency looms there is no closer ally than the Democrat next door or the conservative across the street with emergency supplies.

Laveling political opponents Nazi and racist because you disagree with their views that are not Nazi and not racist crosses a line when they’ve been repeated so many times that people begin to actually believe them.

We’ve got a fun little game of telephone that occurs on Twitter where digital media bloggers follow one another then amplify one another’s wild claims. It leads to absurdities like the libelous designation out of the SPLC.

This case will again reinforce that before labeling a group Nazi or racist, one should actually check to confirm if there is anything to go on before putting it in print. See the Covington reporting for similar case in recent memory where all the reporters rushed to label racism when there was none to be found.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

In my experience, "I am not XXX" is a statement that is ONLY made by people who realize that there is evidence that would suggest I AM an XXX. No law-abiding person feels the need to say "I am not a crook." People about to tell you the truth do NOT say "I would never lie to you." People who aren’t trying to scam you will not say "This is not a scam." I’ve never had the need to tell anyone I wasn’t a white-supremacist, and do not expect ever to have that need. Even the thing I DO say ("I’m a programmer, I don’t DO spreadsheets!") is necessary–because people think "he uses computers, he must know how to use a spreadsheet."

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If somebody says "I’m not a racist, but," there is a 100% chance that the next thing they say is going to be racist.

If somebody were to tell me "I don’t write fan fiction where Sonic the Hedgehog bangs Smurfette, I have never written fan fiction where Sonic the Hedgehog bangs Smurfette, and if you ever say that I write fan fiction where Sonic the Hedgehog bangs Smurfette, I will sue you,"…that motherfucker definitely writes fan fiction where Sonic the Hedgehog bangs Smurfette.

Similarly, if a group puts "we’re definitely not a white supremacist group" in its bylaws and sues people who call it a white supremacist group, well, what does that tell you?

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

It’s not naivete at all that brings me to this position. On the contrary, it’s experience, of the deeply personal variety. I have a lot of empathy for people who have had their lives ruined by false accusations of racism, because I’ve been there.

Several years back, my reputation in a certain online community was completely destroyed because one person claimed I was making racist comments about her. It was entirely untrue, and she completely made up several truly horrible things that I had supposedly said, and even when mods looked at the logs and pointed out that there was zero truth to what she was claiming, people still believed her!

And you know what the truly crazy part is? I later caught her in a chat room, (she didn’t know it was me because I was using a different handle,) bragging and laughing about what she had done to me. Turns out she didn’t care about me either way; she did it because I was friends with a rival of hers who she wanted to discredit by association and she knew it would be an effective way of smearing me.

Getting dragged through an experience like that can be really eye-opening. So now, when I hear people being accused of racism, I give them the benefit of the doubt, I look at available evidence, and I watch for the data that becomes available after the initial story breaks. As they say, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes. And what I’ve found, quite consistently, is that racism in America is as dead as disco. (And I use that term in a very literal sense: it’s not extinct yet, there still a few people around with horrible taste who think it’s awesome, but by and large the vast majority of people understand that it’s a relic of the past that’s best left in the past.)

Innocent until proven guilty always has been the only reasonable standard, in this and any other type of accusation.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

No. Taking something that’s well-understood and arbitrarily redefining it in a broader context is very much a part of the problem. It’s the reason why I mentioned the Shirky Principle in my original comment here. Words have meanings, and the horrifying consequences of the way people twist those meanings around for political advantage was one of the few things Orwell actually got right in 1984.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

Words have meanings – highly subjective, constantly evolving meanings. It is not the role of the courts to step in and punish people over a disagreement on the precise meaning of words used in a clear statement of opinion.

The dangers of the government legally controlling language and punishing people for their speech is actually one of the things Orwell got right. You may need to give that book another read.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

Ah, I assumed that was a reply to my comment about the meaning of "hate groups", but no it was a reply to my comment about the meaning of racism.

You’re an even dumber, more closed-minded person than I thought if you think societal understanding and definition of complex social concepts should be immutable and unchanging. You may think our knowledge and understanding of society should be frozen in an era you’re comfortable with, but you don’t get to dictate that for everyone else – you just get to dwindle into irrelevance. Knowledge will move forward without you.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

Ah, I assumed that was a reply to my comment about the meaning of "hate groups", but no it was a reply to my comment about the meaning of racism.

My point works equally well either way.

You’re an even dumber, more closed-minded person than I thought if you think societal understanding and definition of complex social concepts should be immutable and unchanging.

Why? Human nature hasn’t changed perceptibly in the last few decades.

Please educate yourself on the Shirky Principle, and read up on Fire and Motion while you’re at it. A lot of this "evolving understanding" is not new knowledge or organic growth at all; it’s a deliberate agenda being driven by people who are so heavily invested in fighting social injustices that they literally cannot afford to admit that they won.

Pity the warrior who slays all his foes.

— Klingon proverb

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

it’s a deliberate agenda being driven by people who are so heavily invested in fighting social injustices that they literally cannot afford to admit that they won

Nope, it’s a real advancement of knowledge and understanding by people who are a lot smarter than you.

I know you probably think concepts like "racism" and "misogyny" had a clear and useful definition that is now being made vague and broad by wishy-washy SJWs, but in fact the precise opposite is true.

The idea that such things are best understood in terms of their social mechanisms and the way in which they are experienced by their targets comes from the most rigorous fields of the humanities, such as analytic philosophy and quantitative-analytic sociology.

See, people in these fields, who are doing very rigorous work and as such do indeed require strictly defined terms, have increasingly found that more traditional/colloquial definitions of things like racism and misogyny – based on individual psychology and motivation – are hugely inadequate for properly describing social phenomena observed in data, or for constructing rigidly internally consistent social-philosophical theorems. They have, for quite some time now, been employing much more sophisticated and updated definitions in their work – both in the purely theoretical space and in the applied space where such work informs efforts to promote social justice, combat radicalization, protect victimized groups, etc. Those more sophisticated definitions are now finding their way more and more into colloquial usage and understanding.

The problem with defining racism in terms of individual psychology is clear – and is actually very similar to the SPLC’s comment about not worrying about whether something is actually motivated by feelings of "hate", but rather focusing on actions and message.

It is easy to demonstrate, too: consider a society with total race-based chattel slavery, such as America for long periods of its history. It is actually quite easy to envision periods in such a society where there is virtually no "hatred" of the enslaved race at all, expressed or even in anyone’s internal feelings. Indeed, distinct feelings of hatred for a group, and expressions of those feelings, only tend to arise historically when that group is gaining rights and reducing its subjugation/enslavement. And so by traditional individual-psychology definitions of "racism", one could say that such a society is not very racist or even not racist at all. But that would be a plainly absurd conclusion – leading those who are rigorously analytic about this kind of thing to re-examine the definition, and conclude that it must be refocused on social mechanisms of power and discrimination rather than individual psychology.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Re:

It is easy to demonstrate, too: consider a society with total race-based chattel slavery, such as America for long periods of its history. It is actually quite easy to envision periods in such a society where there is virtually no "hatred" of the enslaved race at all, expressed or even in anyone’s internal feelings.

And this is the point where you lose all credibility. Have you actually researched any of this? Hatred is not the only expression of racism, not by a long shot. When you look at contemporary discussions of related issues from the antebellum period, what you find instead is disdain and contempt. You see a lot of people saying, in so many words, that the black race was inferior mentally to whites, that they were "less human," that by their nature they were only fit to be beasts of burden and nothing more, and so on. (The publication of Darwin’s work on evolution during this same time period was rather unfortunate, as it was used to lend an air of scientific credence to the notion that Africans were "less evolved" and "more bestial" that "proper" human beings.)

There wasn’t much hatred, not because there wasn’t much racism, but because there was so much racism that they weren’t even considered to be worth hating! The shift to hatred in later decades is, somewhat counterintuitively, actually a sign that racism had decreased to the point that they could be acknowledged as real competition, and it’s been decreasing pretty steadily ever since.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:12 Re:

I am well aware of that. You are the one who, up until now, has appeared to me to be arguing that racism must necessarily require conscious hateful motivations. It appears I was mistaken, and your definition is slightly more elaborate – so hopefully now you can accept and acknowledge that understanding of the social phenomenon of racism will continue to evolve.

I do hope you will also acknowledge how common a hate-based definition is, and how frequently it is deployed to defend against accusations of racism, or in most of the same ways misogyny. It is the root of "I have black friends!" or "I actually love women!" from someone who is behaving in a clearly racist or misogynistic way.

Meanwhile, your example is still quite flawed. The scientific racism of the antebellum period came largely in response to increasing opposition to slavery. The antebellum period does not precede the beginnings of the abolition movement – it is marked by the tension between the slave-owning south and the abolitionist north, and racist defenses of slavery were emerging in response to that. Which is precisely my point: distinct individual racism, clearly expressed, emerges in reaction to social/political gains by the targeted group – and is largely dormant or nonexistent during periods when that group’s subjugation is unquestioned and unchallenged.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:13 Re:

You’re saying this as if abolitionist sentiment was a thing that got started at some point along the way. It wasn’t; it was alive and well from the very beginning of our nation and even earlier.

To give just one example of many, during the process of founding the USA, Sam Adams (John Adams’s brother) wanted to throw it out entirely; he warned that if slavery was permitted in the laws of the land, it would lead to civil war in about a century. (This prediction turned out to be so close to what actually happened that it got cut from the script of the theatrical production 1776, because the writer feared audiences would think it was something clever-sounding he made up!)

Abolitionist sentiment was real enough, and influential enough, from the very beginning that the process of admission of new states to the Union was always kept carefully balanced between North and South, such that the North would never gain enough Senate votes to do away with the institution of slavery and the South would never gain enough to strengthen it.

Again, you’re coming across as someone who has not studied history here and is only grounded in very modern, very distorted revisionist theories that are quite ignorant of the past that they’re trying to atone for.

Prinny says:

Re: Re: Re:15

Classic troll tactic, dood. Someone completely owns your argument with solid reasoning, so you say "you’re just making my point for me" without any explanation or justification of why, to subtly imply that anyone who doesn’t get it is just too dumb to understand the obvious.

1/10. Try harder next time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:16

My argument was "racial animus emerges when the targeted group looks like it might be gaining rights" and his response was "nuh-uh, there was lots of racial animus in the antebellum south, and that was a time when it looked like the target group might soon be gaining rights."

I don’t even understand how that’s supposed to be a counterargument – it’s exactly my point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:12 Re:

Your assertion that racism is declining is about as persuasive as my neighbor saying that poor people don’t exist anymore because she voted for a higher minimum wage.

It absolutely exists. It has not decreased in most communities. The recent events in Virginia should show you proof that it has never gone away. It just morphed into something else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:16

I’m starting to understand why you think racism doesn’t exist: you purposefully avoid allowing yourself to become aware of it.

"I don’t know who the Proud Boys are! Virginia? What’s that, like Narnia? I’m an ignorant, clueless person who knows nothing at all about America or the world, but I’m sure racism doesn’t exist anymore, and you should believe me."

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:16

Just like you are not aware of the Proud Boys or Gavin?

It has been national news for the last several days. It has been nearly impossible to avoid. I live nowhere near Virginia and my local news has covered the problems with the governor, Lt. Governor, and others. It is all over social media. It is on every single major national newspaper and national news website.

So either you avoid any news sources, or you are lying.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:19

Wow, your reading comprehension is truly atrocious here. The shrug was about the state he was from.

Also, the choice of examples is particularly telling. I looked it up, and the photo in question was taken 35 years ago. When that’s your go-to talking point for claiming that racism is alive and well today…

TFG says:

Re: Re: Re:20

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/18-examples-of-racism-in-criminal-legal-system_us_57f26bf0e4b095bd896a1476

Dated 2016, fairly recent.

Then there’s the "totally not a ban on muslim countries" thing that the Trump administration wants to pass.

Then there’s the whole thing about The Wall, with people wanting to keep out the Mexicans.

There’s the various alt-right groups (not necessarily including the Proud Boys) that exist. There was that Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which included racists.

It’s not very hard to find examples of extant racism in modern society. Racism may be on a decline, but it’s definitely still alive.

I’m coming into this particular conversation pretty late, so I’m guessing at positions somewhat. I personally would not argue that society is just as racist as it used to be, but I also would not argue that society is fine the way it is. That society is less racist is good – but if anyone is trying to argue that racism is on a decline so we don’t need to worry about it, I have issues with that. I very much hope no one is trying to argue that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:20

The shrug was about the state he was from

No it wasn’t. The shrug (and your feigned ignorance – i don’t believe for a second that you didn’t know what was being talked about the moment someone brought it up) was about minimizing the incident because you don’t give a shit.

was taken 35 years ago

Of a person occupying a position of significant political power today. I don’t know how old you are – maybe you have that foggy old man brain where the past is all just a blur, you can’t process timelines properly, and you’re just bewildered by a modern world that scares and disorients you – but you don’t get to tell other people that the statute of limitations on them caring about about a working politician’s outright, vitriolic racism is up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

Aye. At this point Mr. wheeler has so many arguments that are nearly identical in talking points to a vast majority of the trolls here, on twitter, and other sites I have strong belief he is part of the same group.

No clue if they are reddit, 4chan, or someplace else. But they all have the same playbook and Mr. Wheeler is following it.

And Mr. Wheeler, before you go "proove it", just look at @popehat’s twitter feed (or anyone else prominent who has discussed this topic). You can see a large number of trolls makong the exact same arguments you are. Down to the FBI defenition argument.

So I do not believe you in your personal story (well I believe that you were called a racist. I just believe that you are making up the part about the confession). Nor do I believe you are some innocent bystander who had never heared of the Proud Boys and Gavin before. Your defense of them is too specific, too indentical to others who have heared of them.

Anonymous Coward says:

When Charlottesville occurred who actively used their platform to discourage attendees and denounce white supremacists? — Proud Boys.

When white supremacists show up at conservative events who stops them and yells at them to go home? — Proud Boys.

Who has diverse membership across the spectrum? — Proud Boys.

Who act as bouncer at events stepping between the elderly, women, and activist groups trying to pepper-spray and beat them? — Proud Boys.

The sin is that Proud Boys made it look cool to oppose left leaning terrorist groups. Digital media publications moved to destroy everyone involved for that reason.

SPLC moved away from their core mission and has engaged in creating the appearance of hate groups run rampant rather fight them. Turns out creating the appearance of an ever growing threat is good for donations to the organization. This is shameful as they’re tearing down innocent people, their business, careers, and families in the process.

This suit provides a good opportunity for the SPLC to stop playing these games and return to their core mission.

Prinny says:

Re: Re:

SPLC moved away from their core mission and has engaged in creating the appearance of hate groups run rampant rather fight them. Turns out creating the appearance of an ever growing threat is good for donations to the organization.

Apparently there’s a rule about how this sort of crap always happens, dood. They call it the Shirky Principle. TIL.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Who were acting like a bunch of drunk racists in New York the other week; the proud boys. Weird how you forgot to include that link. As for the rest, bullshit. I mean it’s not likes there videos of the proud boys at Charlotteville acting like a hate group… oh bother. Bro I don’t know who you’re trying to convince, but the proud boys don’t go to raciest rallies to help old ladies across the street. They go there to, ya know, be racists.

Glenn says:

I don’t support the legal idea of "hate group". No matter how you feel about anything or anyone, you have a basic human right to feel as you choose–fairly or unfairly. If you have your own website, then you have the right to express any view you choose to express. What you don’t have a right to do is go to someone else’s website and post comments expressing something they don’t want there. That can be viewed as trespass and assault, esp. if done repeatedly. Basically, if you have your own soapbox, then you can stand on it all day expressing your… "diversity". Nowadays, though, SJWs think that diversity means "it’s OK to be different as long as you’re not different from me". It’s an "I’m OK; you’re not" view of the world. More than anything, these are people who have been poisoned by the Internet and who don’t grasp the difference between reality and that which is virtual.

The world is doomed if these fools take hold. It may be doomed in any case.

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re:

The definition of hate group is not how the group feels, but how the group acts.

You can hate blacks or hate whites or hate Democrats or hate Republicans all you want. It’s not wise, it’s not productive, and it’s not healthy, but it’s also not illegal, and it’s not an instant condemnation of being a terrible person.

The problem is when your hate inspires you to commit, encourage, or ignore crimes, such as harassment, assault, vandalism, issuing threats, workplace discrimination, et cetera.

And to be a hate group (by the government’s definition), the group must be primarily about acting on this hate. If a group of Republicans attack gay people, it doesn’t make the Republican Party a hate group. But if a group of Republicans form a group called Republicans For Heteros and attack gay people, that could easily make Republicans For Heteros a hate group.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Whataboutism is when you try to distract someone by pointing to something unrelated that was not the topic of discussion. (Such as the killing of abortion doctors.) When the thing being pointed to is the current topic of discussion–the real harm done by the SPLC’s spurious and politically-motivated "hate group" designations–that is not a whataboutism. So you fail here twice over!

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Correct on whataboutism, not necessarily correct on statement.

"According to the court documents, Corkins had thought about such an attack for years but "just never went through with it.""

In essence, Corkins was going to make a statement by shooting somebody for being anti-gay, so he looked up where some anti-gay places where. SPLC is only to blame for the FRC being his chosen location, no more than Google would be to blame if he searched, say, "company that hates gays" and found a news article on them reporting on their history of advocating for homosexuality being made a criminal act, insisting that homosexuals are dangerous to children as more homosexuals are pedophiles (even the scientists they cited say that’s bogus), and urging churches to cast out any homosexual members.

Qwertygiy says:

Alfred Hitchcock Was Not A Terrorist

I see two big problems that I greatly disagree with here. A number of points I do agree with you on, of course. The whole "winkingly" thing, of course. The association of McInnes with his group’s behavior. And the agreement that both sides are being, have been, and probably will be disrespectful, poor role models, and often in legal grey areas. But a few things… I feel like your deeply ingrained position that speech should be as free as possible (plus the general incompetency of Mr. McInnes) might have led you to a few false conclusions.

If a reasonable reader would only interpret "hate group" to mean "a group that hates", there’s absolutely no claim to be made over that label. "hate" is subjective, and cannot be proven false. One of two necessities for defamation is at least an implied false statement of fact.

But I feel that’s not the case: a "hate group" is not a mere literal modifier of "group", but has a distinct meaning of its own. This shouldn’t be too hard to come to terms with, pardon the pun.

"super man" doesn’t mean just any old swell guy, it’s a dude with inhuman powers.

"red light district" doesn’t mean an area that is illuminated with a ruby glow, or even an area with a lot of stoplights. It’s an area with, er, ladies of the night.

"black box" doesn’t mean a box that is black. It’s a flight data recorder.

"hate crime" doesn’t mean a crime committed with hate. (Or a crime intended to inspire hate, or a crime against hate, or a crime worthy of being hated.) It means a crime motivated with hate for a specific class of person, rather than solely by necessity, opportunity, or circumstances specific to the victim.

Likewise, "hate group" isn’t just any group of people who feel or express hate for something. In fact, according to the SPLC, there needn’t be any actual "hate" involved at all to be considered a "hate group":

"it does not matter to SPLC whether the use of SPLC Hate Designations is accurate in terms of identifying conduct motivated by actual “hate,” because its use is part of SPLC’s “effort to hold them accountable for their rhetoric and the ideas they are pushing.”"

So the SPLC says there’s a difference between "hate" as an opinionated modifier of "group", and "hate group" as an independent term with a strict definition. That makes it a lot less subjective and a lot closer to a statement of fact. But are they right? How is "hate group" defined?

According to the FBI:

"An organization whose primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons of or with a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity which differs from that of the members or the organization".

Does your organized group’s primary purpose include spreading the feeling of hate, such as (their examples) Nazism and the KKK? If so, you’re provably a hate group to the FBI. Otherwise, you’re provably not.

According to Wikipedia (the first Google result in a neutral browser):

"A social group that advocates and practices hatred, hostility, or violence towards […] any other designated sector of society".

A lot less strict than the FBI’s definition. If you’re a group of people encouraging or performing hateful, hostile, or violent acts towards people for being different than you, you’re provably a hate group to Wikipedia. Otherwise, you’re provably not.

Lastly, the SPCL (which is either first or second to show up in neutral browser searches of Google, DuckDuckGo and Bing):

"an organization that – based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities – has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."

This is a little harder. An argument could be made on either side, mostly depending on whether you believe "attack" and "malign" are both objective or not. I believe they are, because they rely on an intent to cause harm rather than the outcome, which is the same requirement as assault (not battery!).

If these terms are objectively defined, then you can prove you were not doing them and thus don’t fit the SPCL’s definition of hate group, and thus, they made a false statement of fact.

(Pssst. Yeah. Yeah, no. I really don’t think he’ll be able to prove that. I doubt this claim makes it any further than "winkingly." Dude’s said some real nasty stuff, let alone what else he or his group may have done.)

The second point is over what you claim is establishing the label of "hate group" as an opinion because "hate" is a subjective term. I disagree; I feel it makes an entirely different point, which is that the SPLC uses conflicting definitions of hate groups to falsely refer to the Proud Boys as criminals.

" While SPLC’s rhetoric routinely associates “hate groups” with actual “hate crimes,” SPLC has acknowledged that what it defines as “hate group” activity includes constitutionally protected “marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing,” and that the SPLC’s designation of a “hate group” “does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.”"

SPLC is accused of associating their hate groups with federal hate crimes. They openly state criminal activity is not one of the factual requirements to meet their designation of hate group, which they say in the quote does not imply a group engages in criminal activity.

But if they’ve implied that their "hate groups" are the committers of "hate crimes" in other contexts (which is what they appear to be accused of; I could go digging for the exact contexts but I’ve already spent too much time & thought on this), they’re implying that members of Proud Boys have committed hate crimes, when (at least according to McInnes) they have not. Thus, those statements could be defamatory.

(Did McInnes claim those exact contexts where they supposedly connect hate groups to hate crimes? I think they’d have to go after those contexts instead of going after being called a hate group, if my interpretation is anywhere near reality.)

In the end: my opinion, based solely on the facts I have provided here and that have been provided in the article, is that McInnes is doomed to fail on a wide variety of counts, but not because calling a bunch of people a "hate group" is a matter of opinion.

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re: Re: Alfred Hitchcock Was Not A Terrorist

It was part of his appeal’s argument, but I see no reason that calling someone a "fake" or a "liar", when you have presented substantial factual evidence that suggests they have presented themselves untruthfully, would be defamation.

His lawyers didn’t see so, either, so the other part of his appeal was that Techdirt disregarded "extensive factual evidence," "consciously disregarded" the truth and knowingly acted with "actual malice."

This is a problem for him, of course, because he’s never provided this "extensive factual evidence."

Major says:

Buzzfeed is that you ?

Am i on Buzzfeed ? I thought i typed techdirt in the url but i seem to have ended on a site where the latest news seem to be an highly opiniated piece with a clickbait-y title. So… is this the new Buzzfeed ? Is techdirt dead ?