SPLC Asks Court To Toss Proud Boy Founder's Defamation Lawsuit By Asking 'Where's The Lie?'

from the suing-the-libs-to-own-the-snowflakes-or-something dept

A few months ago, Proud Boys founder (and Vice co-founder) Gavin McInnes sued the Southern Poverty Law Center over a bunch of negative things it said about him and the “western chauvinist” group he founded. The SPLC designated the Proud Boys as a “hate group,” citing lots of hateful things its members have said/participated in.

As is the wont of far too many “free speech warriors” who believe free speech means everyone else shutting the hell up and letting them spew their ignorance, Gavin McInnes decided the opinion of the SPLC was actionable libel. It isn’t. Not even in Alabama. Unfortunately, the state has no anti-SLAPP law, so the SPLC must defend itself against McInnes’ ridiculous claims with almost zero hope of recovering any of its legal costs.

If you want to know everything wrong with McInnes’ claims, Mike Masnick’s very thorough post goes into great detail about the stupidity of the lawsuit, the hypocrisy of McInnes and his legal rep (Ron Coleman), and disingenuousness of attempting to use government force to silence certain people’s opinions while pretending you’re so very worried about the state of free speech in America.

To sum up briefly, McInnes claims the SPLC’s “hate group” claim rises above mere opinion because… some people might agree with the SPLC’s assessment of the Proud Boys. McInnes, as the founder of the Proud Boys, claims this has harmed him directly, as have a number of allegedly-defamatory claims made about him directly by the SPLC.

The SPLC’s motion to dismiss [PDF] has been filed. So has a supporting brief [PDF] further shredding the dubious claims and legal illogic of McInnes’ lawsuit. (h/t Andrew Fleishman)

It’s a fun read, at least for those who recognize McInnes’ lawsuit for the utter bullshit it is. It’s always entertaining to watch litigious jackasses get torn apart by their own words and this motion to dismiss does not disappoint. The best defense against defamation allegations is the truth. And McInnes has given the SPLC legal reps plenty to work with.

Several of the challenged statements are non-actionable because, as the allegations of the Complaint itself reveal, they are substantially true. See generally Addendum. For example, McInnes claims to be defamed by a statement that members of the Proud Boys marched in Charlottesville with Richard Spencer. Compl. ¶ 286. The same paragraph of the Complaint in which that claim is asserted also acknowledges that the Proud Boys “expelled four members for attending the event.” Id. It is, therefore, concededly (and literally) true that Proud Boys members marched in Charlottesville, as did Richard Spencer. […]

Similarly, McInnes claims to be defamed by being described as an “Islamophobe,” Compl. ¶ 239, but he does not (and cannot) dispute that he has referred to himself in precisely that manner in published interviews. And while McInnes denies calling Asian American “‘slopes’ and ‘riceballs’ on FOX News or the VDARE website,” Compl. ¶ 256, this statement is substantially true as well. As McInnes well knows, an article under his byline used precisely these slurs to describe Asian Americans—albeit in Taki’s Magazine, rather than on VDARE. A statement that McInnes called Asian Americans “slopes” and “riceballs” in Taki’s Magazine would have absolutely the same effect on a reasonable reader as an assertion that he did so on VDARE. Accordingly, the challenged statement is substantially true as a matter of law.

McInnes also claims he’s been defamed by things the SPLC said about the Proud Boys — a group he admittedly founded (but has now sort of disowned). He attempts to stretch these statements that are not directly about him to be directly harmful to him (and, of course, defamatory). But, as the SPLC points out, McInnes doesn’t even attempt to deny the truthfulness of the statements made about the Proud Boys.

This conclusion is buttressed by the innumerable statements that McInnes does not challenge. These statements include, first and foremost, the voluminous primary source materials directly cited or linked to in the Articles themselves—i.e., the Proud Boys’ and McInnes’s own statements and conduct. To take just the most obvious example, the Complaint does not challenge a single specific statement made on the SPLC Proud Boys Page, which, through hyperlinks and other citations, cogently and extensively lays out SPLC’s case for why it considers the Proud Boys to be a hate group. McInnes’s failure to grapple with the Proud Boys Page alone demonstrates that the overarching thrust of SPLC’s publications about him and the Proud Boys would be the same with or without the statements on which he bases the Specific Claims.

If these are substantially true, they cannot be defamatory, even if McInnes feels his reputation has been tarnished by his association with the group by the SPLC.

The ones quickest to call others “snowflakes” for being offended by others’ words are filing lawsuits over hurt feelings. McInnes’ past is filled with words and deeds that would lead many to deem him “hateful.” That he formed a group that engages in the same sort of bigoted speech McInnes does is no one’s fault but McInnes’. There are consequences to uttering speech others find objectionable. Those consequences are not legal causes of action.

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Comments on “SPLC Asks Court To Toss Proud Boy Founder's Defamation Lawsuit By Asking 'Where's The Lie?'”

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73 Comments
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Look out foot, here comes the shot

McInnes files lawsuit claiming defamation over truthful allegations. One presumes, though it is possible it isn’t true, McInnes has competent legal advise, who go ahead with the suit ’cause their paid to do so (isn’t that a cause of action for the Bar?). So the purposes of the suit are likely an attempt to censor SPLC’s speech and/or cost them money, which will likely only harm them in a minor way.

Well, it is costing McInnes money too, and since it appears he may lose (though who the hell knows was a given court will do on any given day) he will also not obtain the censorship he desires.

So what does he win? A hole in his foot. Oh, and something to be embarrassed about, though he won’t be embarrassed as he will likely spin his loss as a win.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Look out foot, here comes the shot

McInnes files lawsuit claiming defamation over truthful allegations. One presumes, though it is possible it isn’t true, McInnes has competent legal advise, who go ahead with the suit ’cause their paid to do so (isn’t that a cause of action for the Bar?).

No. Filing a frivolous defamation suit is not, in and of itself, cause for disbarment. Charles Harder is still doing brisk business.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Look out foot, here comes the shot

This is a matter which is rather time consuming to research since every state has it’s own bar association. However, in the state of Alabama where this suite was filed, the rules are thus:

(A) In his representation of a client, a lawyer shall not:

File a suit, assert a position, conduct a defense, delay a trial, or take other action on behalf of his client when he knows or when it is obvious that such action would serve merely to harass or maliciously injure another.

Knowingly advance a claim or defense that is unwarranted under existing law, except that he may advance such claim or defense if it can be supported by good faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Look out foot, here comes the shot

"Gavin McInnes co-founded Vice Magazine in 1994 but was pushed out in 2008 after several years of turmoil following a New York Times interview in which he talked about his pride in being white."

Would this be okay if we changed the color?

"Gavin McInnes co-founded Vice Magazine in 1994 but was pushed out in 2008 after several years of turmoil following a New York Times interview in which he talked about his pride in being black."

"He stated, "We don’t start fights […] but we will finish them.""

They should lie down and take it, otherwise they are promoting violence.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Look out foot, here comes the shot

"Would this be okay if we changed the color?"

It’s strange how you bring race up, since the guy you’re replying to didn’t mention it.

"They should lie down and take it, otherwise they are promoting violence."

You’re assuming that McInnes isn’t full of shit in his statement, which is a stretch from what I’ve seen.

Thad (profile) says:

And while McInnes denies calling Asian American “‘slopes’ and ‘riceballs’ on FOX News or the VDARE website,” Compl. ¶ 256, this statement is substantially true as well. As McInnes well knows, an article under his byline used precisely these slurs to describe Asian Americans—albeit in Taki’s Magazine, rather than on VDARE.

Ah. Well there you have it: Gavin McInnes is definitely not a white supremacist, because he didn’t use racial slurs on Fox News or VDARE, he used them in Taki’s Magazine.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have a better question...

Where’s the truth from the SPLC?

Because if you remember the Convington Catholic Boys (who, BTW, are suing a BUNCH of people over the lies that were spread about them), the SPLC attacked them as being bigots.

Sorry, Mike and Tim, but I think the Proud Boys win this one, the SPLC’s history of lying and distorting the truth will hurt them too much.

Anonymous Coward says:

A better question is this...

Where’s the truth from the SPLC?

They placed Ben Carson on their Hate list.

They attacked the Covington Catholic Boys (need I remind everyone that TONS of people are getting sued by them over THAT fiasco?)

How about the guy who shot the Republican Congressman? Did you know that not only was he a Bernie supporter, but he followed the SPLC?

In the words of SPLC former spokesman Mark Potok (who spent 20 years as a senior fellow at the SPLC and only retired recently, according to LinkedIn), the group does not exist to monitor hate groups.

"Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate groups, I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, completely destroy them," Potok declared at an event in Michigan in 2007.

In yet another 2008 speech, Potok explained the SPLC criteria for a "hate group." The spokesman said, "Our criteria for a ‘hate group,’ first of all, have nothing to do with criminality, or violence, or any kind of guess we’re making about ‘this group could be dangerous.’ It’s strictly ideological" (emphasis added).

Even Politico, HARDLY a right-wing website, questions the SPLC and their motives. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/06/28/morris-dees-splc-trump-southern-poverty-law-center-215312

Maybe, just maybe…

The SPLC is full of shit and McInnes is in the right this time.

Just so you know, I am NOT a defender of McInnes or the Proud Boys.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Funny thing that. I’ve been a defender of Proud Boys, Nazis, and many other objectionable groups. Not because I support their views, but because I support free speech, and from time to time people’s emotional reactions to these groups cause them to make decisions that would be unfair against anyone, which unfortunately includes these groups.

You’ll never find me, or any true supporter of free speech, saying they’re not a defender of someone or some group. You’ll find us saying we don’t support them. But we WILL defend them when what’s really being attacked is not the group but basic human rights.

Of course, in this case, basic human rights are being upheld; McInnes just doesn’t like that SPLC’s spotlight on his previous actions and statements tarnishes his reputation with the previously ignorant.

TFG says:

Re: A better question is this...

The SPLC is full of shit and McInnes is in the right this time.

Just so you know, I am NOT a defender of McInnes or the Proud Boys.

AC defends McInnes. Says they are not a defender of McInnes. Suuuuure.

Look, regardless of what you think about the SPLC, and regardless of what you think of McInnes, McInnes cannot be in the right in this instance, because he is attempting to sue for libel due to true statements.

Note that the statements are not true because the SPLC said them. The statements are true because the SPLC is referring to actual things that have happened, and actual things that McInnes has said.

McInnes doesn’t have a leg to stand on, in this case.

The point is not that the SPLC is good (Your Mileage May Vary) or that McInness is bad (Your Mileage May Vary) – the point is that if a statement is true, it is not libel, no matter who said it.

If McInnes were not bring suit, and were simply calling out the SPLC as utilizing the term "hate group" in a way that serves a specific political agenda, then he would have a chance to be in the right.

By calling it libel, he’s dead wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: A better question is this...

"Look, regardless of what you think about the SPLC, and regardless of what you think of McInnes, McInnes cannot be in the right in this instance, because he is attempting to sue for libel due to true statements."
I agree
I’ve seen 2 maybe 3 of his videos. I liked him. Thought he was funny

This was a dick move. But I understand

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: A better question is this...

"I’ve seen 2 maybe 3 of his videos. I liked him. Thought he was funny"

I’m curious, since the only time I ever heard of him until recently was the time he violated himself with a sex toy live on air for some reason. Was that the usual level of humour? Because that always seemed to me to be someone heavily in denial about something rather than actual comedy.

Toom1275 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 A better question is this...

Never heard about that. But I don’t search for that kind of material so it doesn’t get suggested to me either.

You’re giving away your search habits

Google’s had a bit of a problem for a while recently of recommending conspiracists/Nazis to people for no discernable reason, so Paul being shown disgusting content like McInnes isn’t likely his own fault.

Ed (profile) says:

Re: A better question is this...

They attacked the Covington Catholic Boys (need I remind everyone that TONS of people are getting sued by them over THAT fiasco?)

And those "boys" will likely lose those lawsuits, as well. SPLC was essentially correct about them. The right-wing propaganda and right-wing-extremist law firms backing these "boys" can’t hide the FACTS that the "boys" lied and instigated the incident. The "boys" can sue anyone they want, doesn’t change the fact they’re little NAZI fucks being payrolled by NAZIs.

Anonymous Coward says:

So how many times now has the SPLC claimed "hate group" and then had to roll it back and apologize? Is the SPLC still calling Christian groups "hate groups" just by virtue of the fact they are Christian, cos all Christianity is hateful, or so say the SPLC?

Any one know how much money the SPLC makes? how about the (((racial))) make up of the board? Hmmmmm.

raisintooth says:

poppycock

If one is making the point that a group is not a hate group by pointing out that the group expelled members for attending a rally that is labelled as "hateful," you can’t make the claim that that information proves that the group is a "hate group." McInnes’ lawyer made a perfectly rational and logical point.

This article mocks McInnes’ logic and then makes a mockery of logic itself by quoting the defendant’s argument and pretending it’s logical.

The lawsuit is not meant to be a slam-dunk – it’s designed to flesh out the details of SPLC’s inner workings in discovery and get them off some of the list of trusted entities at some of the media outlets that cover events related to McInnes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: poppycock

it’s designed to flesh out the details of SPLC’s inner workings in discovery and get them off some of the list of trusted entities at some of the media outlets that cover events related to McInnes.

You are calling it a bullshit lawsuit then? If the intent wasn’t about being defamed, but instead to peek into the inner workings of SPLC, then it’s the worst kind of bullshit lawsuit… and you’re defending them? Wow…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Do you want rule 11 sanctions because this is how you get...

“The lawsuit is not meant to be a slam-dunk – it’s designed to flesh out the details of SPLC’s inner workings in discovery and get them off some of the list of trusted entities at some of the media outlets that cover events related to McInnes.”

It’s pretty sad when even the best the proud boy defenders can come up with is “This is a nuisance and possible vexatious case.”

Nice own goal scooter. You should be on Gavin’s legal team with a legal mind like that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The SPLC are a political weapon

"I disagree with someone’s viewpoints, therefore fuck their civil liberties and the 1st Amendment, I hope they get destroyed."

Interesting position to take Zof. Fucked up. But, thanks for revealing what a terrible person you are for those who didn’t already recognize it.

restless94110 (profile) says:

Consequences of Punishing Free Speech

"There are consequences to uttering speech others find objectionable. Those consequences are not legal causes of action."

So Tech Dirt writers like Tim & Mike are for "consequences" for uttering speech?

Kind of puts the lie to the entire article’s POV. Kind of puts the lie to Tech Dirt itself.

Guess when your site crosses the rapidly changing line and suffers "consequences" you might finally understand. Or maybe not.

Probably not, if one were to judge by the articles you write about free speech censorship issues. Not a clue would be the best way to describe both you guys. Ah well, still good on other things.

Just the huge blind spot when it comes to the 1st Amendment.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Why yes, actually

So Tech Dirt writers like Tim & Mike are for "consequences" for uttering speech?

‘Free speech’ is not(and never has been) shorthand for ‘consequence-free speech’, except when it comes to governmental repercussions outside specific cases. That said however there are ‘valid’ responses, such as a lawsuit for actual defamation, or as a non-legal consequences someone being told ‘not on our platform’ and given the boot, and ‘invalid’ responses, such as a lawsuit asserting defamation for pointing out what someone has actually said.

There have always been consequences of varying levels for uttering speech, that they might not always rise to the level of legal actions does not mean they did not, and do not, exist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Consequences of Pumping Up The Jam

Kind of puts the lie to the premise that you wrote a post without trying to shoehorn in a a literary trope that will make you sound smarter than you actually are.

Guess when your site crosses the party going on the dance floor. Get your booty on the floor tonight. There are consequences to pump it up a little more.

Major says:

I still remember the good old day when techdirt reporting and comments were more neutral …
Why, oh why does this article feel so biased toward the left view of the world ?

The SPLC is pretty well know for their smear campaign against people that do not agree with the alt-left, furthermore there was a few case of racism at the SPLC itself :
https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/29/us/splc-leadership-crisis/index.html

So let’s rephrase that a bit :

  • McInnes has started a group that "might" be considered racist.
  • Morris dee has started a group that "might" be considered racist.

In light of that information the title of the article could be :
Potential Racist Group Asks Court To Toss Potential Racist Group Founder’s Defamation Lawsuit By Asking ‘Where’s The Lie?’

If the current title now sound like "pot calling the kettle black" to you, that mean you have successfully been cured of your left leaning cognitive dissonance.

Welcome back to the real world.

TFG says:

Re: Re:

I still remember the good old day when techdirt reporting and comments were more neutral …

Major, the headline as writ uses the actual names of the organization and organization that the plaintiff is associated with. This is about as viewpoint neutral as it gets for a headline – it’s pure factual data.

Literally, the SPLC is asking the court to toss the lawsuit brought against them by the Proud Boys found by asking "Where’s the lie?" If you have zero knowledge of either organization, you still have no idea of who has what inclinations or leanings. The headline is, however, information enough to allow you to then research the organizations involved and figure that out.

Your proposed replacement ditches factual data for language that makes a valuation of the organizations, and therefore immediately becomes less neutral. Now the article is, in the headline itself, immediately presenting an opinion of both organizations. Calling both sides bad is not neutrality. It’s "taking a third side."

Additionally, by ditching the names of the organizations involved, you remove useful identifying information. People can’t tell who is involved, can’t do some research upfront, etc.

I seriously don’t agree with your proposed resolution.

If the current title now sound like "pot calling the kettle black" to you, that mean you have successfully been cured of your left leaning cognitive dissonance.

No it doesn’t. See, your proposed headline certainly sounds like "pot calling the kettle black" but the problem is that you’ve only changed the words without necessary convincing anyone of the truth of your view of things. Those who don’t agree that the SPLC are possibly racist won’t be convinced, and neither will those who don’t think that the Proud Boys or Gavin McInnes are possibly racist be convinced.

Come to think of it, are you also trying to cure right-leaning cognitive dissonance with this headline? Because Mr. McInnes appears to have fans amongst right-leaning folks, based on comments above, and they sure wouldn’t agree with this being a case of pot, meet kettle. Why are they not also being called out?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Why, oh why does this article feel so biased toward the left view of the world ?

Because you have reading comprehension problems and/or an incredibly biased view that can’t admit that maybe a group you hate is on the right side of a lawsuit? Probably both of those.

The SPLC is pretty well know for their smear campaign

Even if true, so what? They’re not the ones suing over someone else’s speech. If they were, we’d cover them the same way we’re covering McInnes’ bullshit lawsuit.

If the current title now sound like "pot calling the kettle black" to you, that mean you have successfully been cured of your left leaning cognitive dissonance.

Again, SPLC is not the ones suing

Anonymous Coward (user link) says:

SPLC are hacks

this sounds a lot like the maajid nawaz lawsuit, where the splc had to pay him 3 million. they should’ve learned at that point that libel has legal consequences. i actually used to respect the splc until they jumped onto the “anyone who disagrees with the left is a nazi” bandwagon. couple that with the current culture of racism within the organization, the revelation that morris dees is a sexual predator, and you have a group with zero legitimacy the has become the laughing stock of the political world.

George Klaes says:

Southern Poverty Law Center is hate group

Anyone who has taken the time to explore the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website knows it is itself a hate group posing as a defender of freedom. The Southern Poverty Law Center promotes hate for anyone who opposes the extreme liberal position. They have lost touch with reality and they ignore racism of their affiliated organizations.

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