Is Merely Explaining The Streisand Effect To Someone A 'Threat'?

from the paranoid-much? dept

Ken White, over at Popehat, has a story on the ridiculous situation concerning how lawyer/psychotherapist Jose Arcaya is going after lawyer Scott Greenfield (whose work we often mention around these parts). The history of how it got this far is a bit convoluted, and you can read the full Popehat post for the details, but here's my shortened version: An apparently unsatisfied former client of Arcaya left a negative review of Arcaya on Yelp. Arcaya sued for defamation, arguing that being called "absolute scum" is not merely an opinion because of the use of the word "total" (which as far as I can tell is not actually used in the review -- though perhaps he means "absolute" or perhaps something was edited. Also, for the record, the review appears to call him "absolute scum" not "absolute scum bag" though I doubt the difference matters):
Regarding the matter of whether "absolute scum bag" should be deemed defamation per se rests with the present court. Mr. Boka tTots out a series of cases indicating the word "scum" and "scum bag" do not fall in that category. However, by adding the word "total" he impugns everything about me, including character and capacity to carry-out legal work. It coincides well with the Dillon standard of defamatjon per se: a maliciously intended attack on my professional capabilities, an all encompassing put-down (i.e., "absolute scum", not just "scum bag" Or "scum")...
Anyway, the former Arcaya client reached out to White, who in turn reached out to Greenfield. Greenfield then reached out to Arcaya, trying to explain to him, nicely, that suing over someone calling you "absolute scum" on Yelp is probably not a productive venture and might -- just possibly -- backfire, thanks to a little thing called the Streisand Effect. About five or six years ago, a lawyer had told me that the Streisand Effect was losing its power because lawyers now recognized it. And yet, we keep discovering new lawyers who have no idea about it at all.

Now, some might take this as a friendly bit of advice about how a course of action could potentially backfire once it is revealed to the public. But Arcaya, apparently, took Greenfield's explanation of how the Streisand Effect works... and claimed that it was Greenfield threatening him with the Streisand Effect. In response, Arcaya subpoenaed Greenfield and defended this move by apparently arguing that Greenfield was somehow threatening him in describing how the Streisand Effect tends to work, and claiming that Greenfield was somehow associated with "an illegal gang."
Again, while I have no evidence that he was part of that illegal gang, as a lawyer Greenfield still should not have served as a conduit for that criminal enterprise. Rather than calling me Greenfield should have contact [sic] the Attorney General's office or the police to denounce what he had learned. Because of his failure to uphold the principle of propriety as a server of the law, I lodged a complaint the [sic] First Department's Discipline Committee.
Oh, right. Beyond just issuing the subpoena, Arcaya filed a wonderfully handwritten bar complaint against Greenfield -- for daring to explain a basic online phenomenon. Wow.
What's amazing is how frequently we've seen this kind of reaction. From Charles Carreon to Prenda Law, those who find themselves faced with the public reacting negatively to their own lawyerly overreactions assume that "the public" speaking out is some sort of "illegal gang" out to get them. They don't realize that it's not about them (at all), but rather the public exercising its free speech rights to criticize what the public believes is an abuse of power.

Either way, the idea that merely explaining the Streisand Effect to a lawyer who was about to step right into it is some sort of threat concerning a "criminal gang" that somehow violates proper lawyerly activities is so ridiculously laughable, that I'd argue it's even more ridiculous than flipping out and suing over someone calling you "absolute scum."

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  1. identicon
    Michael, 20 Apr 2015 @ 12:43pm

    Again, while I have no evidence that he was part of that illegal gang, as a lawyer Greenfield still should not have served as a conduit for that criminal enterprise

    So he thinks "The Streisand Effect" is some kind of criminal gang? If it were, I'm pretty sure the internet would have already shamed them into changing their name to something a little more manly. I could see that name for a boy band, but I'm pretty sure a band using that name would end up causing some kind of infinite loop of legal irony.

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