August 30, 2014

"The Weirdest Story About a Conservative Obsession, a Convicted Bomber, and Taylor Swift You Have Ever Read."

"Benghazi, Robin Williams, Islam, Twitter, and a convicted bomber from the 1970s came together in a court case against right-wing bloggers."

Thanks to David Weigel for presenting this story, which I've avoided blogging because of its complexity and moral ambiguity. Where do you start? I've only copied the Daily Beast's headline and subheadline here, and it's an odd list of things. Robin Williams and Taylor Swift aren't actually important, but passing references. "Islam" is much more generic than "Everyone Draw Mohammad Day" (which I always said was a bad idea, but, of course: free speech). And the word "pedophilia" doesn't even appear on the list, but it's at the core of this defamation case.

Excerpt:
When he called McCain to the stand, Kimberlin handed McCain a print-out of a 2009 blog post about how to get traffic, and asked him to read tip number four: “Make some enemies.” Kimberlin, having made his point—this guy was starting a fight to make money—tried to take back the document. McCain snatched it and kept reading.

“At the same time, however, don’t confuse cyber-venom with real-world hate,” said McCain, giving a drawled, dramatic reading of one of his favorite posts. “Maybe Ace of Spades really would like to go upside Andrew Sullivan’s head with a baseball bat, I don’t know. But at some point you understand it’s just blogging about politics, and you start wondering if maybe it shares a certain spectator-friendly quality with pro wrestling. For all we know, Ace is spending weekends at Sully’s beach shack in Provincetown.”

McCain plunked the document back on the witness stand. “A sense of humor is not a crime in this country,” he said.
The right-wing bloggers win in the end, and when they win, they look like this.

76 comments:

madAsHell said...

The story has so many twists, and turns. Everyone can find a sub-plot to which they can subscribe.

RazorSharpSundries said...

I recommend the book, "Citizen K," by Mark Singer. Published in 1996, this book written by a liberal New Yorker journalist who initially fell under Kimberlin's spell-like spiel, builds a solid case against Kimberlin as a charming, intelligent and evil sociopath.

Big Mike said...

Every left-wing blogger who thinks about tangling with Stacy McCain should look at that clip. As Glenn Reynolds likes to remind people, "you cannot out-crazy Stacy McCain."

traditionalguy said...

You mean asshole speech is free too?

That is not politically correct. I demand that you be fired, boycotted, and that all government benefits be taken from you, your family and anyone who says they are your still friend! The age of prudery is back in public speech crimes.

Achilles said...

Liberal...

Censorship...

Irony...

Birches said...

Yeah, that guy is whacko. I've read a little bit on the whole thing and I can't believe it all really happened.

David said...

Compare

Inside the conservative media bubble, Kimberlin is the bogeyman in an epic battle between the forces of progressivism and justice, between censorship and free speech. Kimberlin’s allies have accused conservatives of trying to turn him into the next Bill Ayers, a villain that Democrats have to answer for. Outside the bubble, it’s a confounding and minor story—perhaps a case study in how the right’s new media, which does not trust the traditional press, can get endlessly lost down rabbit holes.

with

In 1988 Kimberlin claimed that he’d sold marijuana to a young Dan Quayle, and that Republicans were using the prison system to silence him. It was a fantastic story that bubbled into the mainstream media and was reported out at length by the New Yorker’s Mark Singer. Kimberlin even agreed to collaborate on a book about his story. When the dogged Singer proved that his source was lying, he wrote a different kind of book.

About three paragraphs apart. Do these people ever bother to think?

Zeb Quinn said...

I would never have gone to the Daily Beast of all places to get the low-down on this story.

damikesc said...

Yeah, this has been an ugly case with Kimberlin and his associates being a special level of asshole. He has filed suit aafter suit against anybody who mentions his past.

This isn't an obsession. It's a lawyer who should have their ability to file suits revoked as a nuisance.

EDH said...

And tomorrow, I can file another lawsuit against them. And now I know what I need to do. It’s going to be endless lawsuits for the rest of their lives. And that’s what it ends up being. I sue them. They sue me. They come into court. I sue them. They come into court. That’s the way it is.”

Isn't that enough to have him declared a "vexacious litigant" by the court?

Weigel:

Inside the conservative media bubble, Kimberlin is the bogeyman in an epic battle between the forces of progressivism and justice, between censorship and free speech. Kimberlin’s allies have accused conservatives of trying to turn him into the next Bill Ayers, a villain that Democrats have to answer for. Outside the bubble, it’s a confounding and minor story—perhaps a case study in how the right’s new media, which does not trust the traditional press, can get endlessly lost down rabbit holes.

Or, maybe it's because Kimberlin is the tip of a lawfare iceberg that has infected prosecuters offices and agencies of government from Texas to Wisconsin to Washington DC?

Birches said...

Yeah David, that first paragraph Weigel is contractually obligated to provide or else the readership of TDB will collectively implode...

Gahrie said...

Now compare this case with Mann's lawsuit against Steyn and NRO. It is exactly the same type of projection and sociopathic behavior in both cases.

Now look at the Walker investigation, the delay persecution and the Perry indictment.

It's a pattern. The Left uses the courts to punish and demonize their enemies.

glenn said...

The real reason Ann didn't blog about this story is she didn't want to be involved in a lawsuit by some vexatious litigant.

Michael K said...

"Inside the conservative media bubble, Kimberlin is the bogeyman in an epic battle between the forces of progressivism and justice, between censorship and free speech. "

Does the Daily Beast understand that it is completely siding with the Speedway Bomber here ?

To the left, it is all about tactics.

YoungHegelian said...

Whatever may be the problems of Stacy McCain, the day that one feels the need to write a newspaper story in defense of a human being like Brett Kimberlin is a day better spent in bed with one's head under a pillow.

eddie willers said...

He has filed suit after suit against anybody who mentions his past.


Capitalism can fix this:
Loser Pays

William said...

I read the article. No matter how hard the Beast writer tried to slant it, Kimberlin looks bad and probably far, far worse than he appears in that article. It was, however, useful to know that McCain has tobacco stained teeth.

MayBee said...

Outside the bubble, it’s a confounding and minor story—perhaps a case study in how the right’s new media, which does not trust the traditional press, can get endlessly lost down rabbit holes.

Hmmm. I wonder if the fact that it was a minor story that bloggers were being sued for mentioning the truth about a Dem activist is really good evidence that it's the *conservatives* who live in a bubble.

I could possibly believe it if the big media outlets simply never chased the small blog-driven story. But Cindy Sheehan and Jeff Gannon prove otherwise.

chickelit said...

This sounds like a feel-good story of the American justice system prevailing to me.

cubanbob said...

If Kimberlin had not been let out of prison but rather had to complete his sentence behind bars none of this would have happened. I am amazed how the TDB sort of poo-poo's Kimberlin's conviction. Still,you can't get the stink off a shit.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Yeah, those darn cinservativrs, always so obsessed with convicted felons who file frivolous lawsuits, harass them, and use the courts to punish their legitimate legal behavior. Good thing cruel neutrality keeps the press away from the actual story.
What'd it cost RSMcCain to "win" overall, do you think?

MayBee said...

Althouse-
what is the moral ambiguity?

Birkel said...

Brett Kimberlin is by many accounts a vexatious litigant who is not cowed by common decency. And he will use whatever tool comes to hand to silence those with whom he disagrees, allegedly.

So one must question how to deal with such a person, if one exists.

We could give a wide berth to such individuals in the hopes they will leave us alone. But many such individuals will actively seek out confrontation. In doing so, all good and right-thinking folks could cede their free speech to the hostile minority but that will only allow the minority greater power. And it will only buy time in the hopes that the litigious crocodile will eat you last.

The heckler's veto cannot stand.

This is true whether the subject matter under discussion is politics or religion.

Paco Wové said...

"Kimberlin’s allies..."

He has "allies"? I mean, besides David Weigel?

gk1 said...

David "Ratfucker" Weigel? The "conservative" that was let go by the Washington post. Yeah, I'm sure he was even handed with this story.

http://sfcmac.wordpress.com/2010/07/24/dave-weigel-gets-ratfucked-by-his-own-words/

geokstr said...

I'm surprised no one seems to remember the SWATting that has been circumstantially at least tied to Kimberlin and/or his supporters. Here's the harrowing account from one of the victims, blogger Patterico, who is a prosecutor in L.A.:
Convicted Bomber Brett Kimberlin, Neal Rauhauser, Ron Brynaert, and Their Campaign of Political Terrorism

An anonymous 911 caller claims he has just killed his wife, threatens to kill his children and gives his address. A few minutes later, without warning, a SWAT team in full combat gear pounds on the front door and demands the unsuspecting victim come out with his hands up. One wrong move by either the SWAT team or the victim or his family and someone could end up dead.

Erick Erickson of RedState.com and others were also targeted not long after posting criticism of Kimberlin.

Kimberlin claimed to have been SWATted himself after the publicity about the other victims got out, but inquiries to the relevant law enforcement agencies found no evidence to support it:
Was Kimberlin Really SWATted?

Gary Rosen said...

What "moral ambiguity"? Kimberlin is a vicious scumbag trying to ruin the lives of people who Weigel calls "obsessed" for trying to defend themselves.

Lem said...

This sounds like a feel-good story of the American justice system prevailing to me.

And then you find out that he is a thorn on the feminist side.

I thought of a thong while trying to spell thorn, but for the thong to show, that woman, Ms Lewinsky, would have to be mention on briefs... Either way Althouse has left her out.

alan markus said...

His "Velvet Revolution" nonprofit got money from the likes of Barbra Streisand to produce something like this:

Happy Springtime (Bush Is Over)

furious_a said...


So one must question how to deal with such a person, if one exists.


The way Walter White dealt with Emilio and Crazy Eight.

Terry said...

I am surprised the Dailybeast published this. Any reasonable person would conclude that Kimberlin is a violent psychopath who has killed people and is a pathological liar. Weigel downplays Kimberlin's Leftist associations, but he has been supported financially by individuals on the Left and by organizations controlled by the Left.

Beldar said...

What interests me about this particular episode in the Kimberlin Saga is that it's the result of a trial on the merits — not of some pretrial motion to dismiss or motion for sanctions.

Over the 34 years I've been a practicing trial lawyer, I've seen an ever-shrinking percentage of lawyers who have the guts to go to trial. And that's unfortunate, because sometimes — and often especially, when one'e dealing with a crazy pro se litigant — the defendant's shortest, most definitive, and therefore most cost-effective line to a conclusive resolution is to say, "Sure, put up or shut up: You have no case. We're ready to go to trial. Bring it."

cubanbob said...

Over the 34 years I've been a practicing trial lawyer, I've seen an ever-shrinking percentage of lawyers who have the guts to go to trial. And that's unfortunate, because sometimes — and often especially, when one'e dealing with a crazy pro se litigant — the defendant's shortest, most definitive, and therefore most cost-effective line to a conclusive resolution is to say, "Sure, put up or shut up: You have no case. We're ready to go to trial. Bring it.""

Beldar unfortunately lawyers don't work for free unless they are pro se litigants ( and courts give them too much leniency) so even if you spend the bucks to go to trial there is the appeals and endless litigation to deal with while you are getting billed and in the end even if you win you have an I collectable judgement. I blame the courts for not tossing junk suits from the start.

Beldar said...

cubanbob, thanks for the comment (8/30/14, 4:52 PM), but you completely missed my point.

Not many defendants are so judgment-proof — and therefore so unconcerned with the result of their court battles — as someone must be in order to proceed pro se, without a lawyer. Anyone who owns assets beyond his home state's homestead exemption is putting those assets at risk by proceeding without a lawyer.

A cost-effective solution is one which secures the best outcome for that defendant at the lowest price. Sometimes foregoing pretrial motions and discovery, and going straight to trial, is the best way to do that.

There's no way, for example, to prevent a miscreant like Kimberlin from appealing the trial court's judgment against him in this case. But by actually going to trial, and putting Kimberlin to his legal burden of adducing at least some admissible evidence to support every element of each claim he's pleaded, in a hearing in which he's had very wide latitude and there are virtually no adverse rulings by the judge of which he can complain on appeal — will give you an appellate record on which the appeals court can confidently and immediately "affirm on the basis of the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law, after refusing to reconsider the trial court's factual findings that are based on credibility determinations.

Trust me, I've seen — and done my best to represent — many clients, including small businesses, that had too much to lose to go without a lawyer, but who could barely afford to pay for a few hours of my time. If all a client can afford is a few hours of my time, then it's my job as a creative and cost-effective trial lawyer to make the hours I do spend as effective on the client's behalf as possible. And despite its risks, sometimes a quick trial on the merits is exactly the best way to do that.

Unfortunately — and this was my original point — not enough lawyers are confident enough to assume those risks. So instead, too many litigants who are defending against b*llsh*t lawsuits like this one end up spending tons of money on inconclusive pretrial hearings, hoping to avoid trial through a pretrial ruling that, by its nature, is more likely to be overturned on appeal than would have been a favorable result from a trial on the merits.

Wjj Hoge said...

I'm one of the defendants. Fortunately, Ken White put up the Popehat Signal for us, and we were able to find pro bono counsel.

From my point of view, Kimberlin's lawsuit was a mixture of harassment and attempted shutuppery. His RICO lawsuit against my 23 codefendants and me is still alive.

If you're interested in understand the issues involved, I suggest you go over to popehat.com and search for >kimberlin<. Ken's analysis is generally spot on, even when he's critical of me.

Douglas said...

"A cost-effective solution is one which secures the best outcome for that defendant at the lowest price. Sometimes foregoing pretrial motions and discovery, and going straight to trial, is the best way to do that." Steyn has attempted this in the shuttupery case that Michael Mann brought against him - he gave Mann all the discovery Mann asked for without arguing, and forwent pretrial appeals on the SLAPP arguments - but Mann refuses to provide any discovery or to proceed to trial on the merits, trying, it appears, to impose as much costs as possible on Steyn.

I guess you can do that if you are either a crazy pro se litigant like Kimberlin or a well-funded fanatic like Mann. BTW, has anyone every discovered the identities of the folks paying for Mann's lawsuit?

zefal said...

Nat King Cole: Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark. Miss Althouse is afraid of kimberlin and is hiding behind the morale ambiguity spiel. So even if it was ambiguous why would that make it not worth commenting on? Since when do you only comment on something that you think isn't?


It actually occurred to me in the past that Althouse didn't say a word about these goings on and thought it peculiar. Now we know why. If kimberlin had won, would you have still found it ambiguous and not worthy of comment?

I have no problem with Althouse not wanting to tangle with an obama hired hand who is a well-documented sociopath but I do with her trying to dismiss it as morally ambiguous. http://www.amazon.com/Citizen-Deeply-American-Journey-Kimberlin/dp/0679429999/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409453919&sr=8-1&keywords=Citizen+K%3A+The+Deeply+Weird+American+Journey+of+Brett+Kimberlin

You owe your readers an apology and these bloggers for that statement.

Michael K said...

" BTW, has anyone every discovered the identities of the folks paying for Mann's lawsuit?"

If it's Penn State that should be nice lawsuit,

cubanbob said...

@Beldar, I understand and appreciate your comment but when dealing with crazies no matter what you do they don't stop and you can't force the issue of going to trial, the other side has a say in the matter. And in a case like this where you have a pro se plaintiff who isn't running up large legal bills but forces the defendant to spend money on a defense its rather difficult to do as you suggested. I blame the courts for not tossing these crap suits just because a trial judge might be embarrassed if one out of hundred of these suits might actually have a scintilla of merit.

I have been forced to spend so far $1.3mm dollars in legal expenses in a junk suit where the plaintiff has committed plenty of fraud and perjury not only against me but on the courts and on the government and yet the trial judge ruled that notwithstanding that it would not have changed his motion for summary judgment. Now I am waiting for the appeals court to render its decision. My problem is that I'm dealing with crazies who do have some money and are willing to fight on and on long past any realistic probability of ever winning any award that would have equalled the lowest settlement offer of the seven times I have been forced in to mediation and if they are lucky the appeals court will grant them the right to a trial where once again they would have to prove to a jury a theory of damages that another jury already found wasn't worth one dollar. And this is in federal court so one can't even argue that its just "low quality" state judges. I feel for Kimberlin's victims and even after this particular case was a victory for the defendants they still can't get rid of his harassment as Hoge noted Kimberlin has a RICO action against them I blame the courts for not using their discretion and tossing these types of fraudulent prosecutions from the jump and sanctioning the plaintiffs.

OmegaPaladin said...

Respectfully, Pr. Althouse, there really isn't much moral ambiguity here. I just can't see how this is ambiguous.

This is basically vexatious litigation - a guy who has boast of filing hundreds of lawsuits being no sweat for him. To the best of my knowledge, the defendants did not even need to present a case. It's based on free speech issues - discussing Kimberlin's past actions for which he was convicted, and actions he admitted in published articles.

I'd suggest reading Aaron Worthing / Walker and Patterico / Patrick Frey, as they go more into the legal side of things. Ken at Popehat offers an outsider's point of view, with legal discussion.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

"Where do you start?"

Decent folks start at the beginning.

Or from as you like.

Ann Althouse said...

There were many assertions of fact, and I didn't have independent research to know what was true and what wasn't, and I have always disapproved of the Draw Mohammad protest. There was too much crossfire to see who was acting defensively and who was being vicious. I could not see how to blog this story before today.

Watching The Felon said...

If I may say, I think it was exactly Kimberlin's attention to throw confusion on the story by trying to make it about cartoon pictures of Mohammed. Kimberlin also had several other smokescreens he used to try to make the story to not be about his own bad behavior. The goal is for the reaction of the average person to be, "I'm not sure exactly what's going on but it's a tangled mess I don't want to go near, and it sounds like there are misdeeds on both sides." The extreme harassment tactics of Kimberlin's defenders, like Bill Schmalfeldt and Neal Rauhauser, make calm, sane onlookers even less likely to want to have anything to do with it. Again, this is by design, so don't fall for it.

MayBee said...

There were many assertions of fact, and I didn't have independent research to know what was true and what wasn't, and I have always disapproved of the Draw Mohammad protest. There was too much crossfire to see who was acting defensively and who was being vicious. I could not see how to blog this story before today.

I understand not knowing how to blog it, but I still would like clarity on your view of the moral ambiguity of this situation.

Why did BK even have to involve himself in the draw Mohammed protest?
How did he end up with so many lawsuits against bloggers?

I'm imagining if Jessica Valenti had been more litigious, back in the day. Would that have been morally ambiguous, had she decided to sue you and pretty much anyone who wrote in support of you?

No. And this isn't either. Difficult to write about, yes. Scary to involve yourself in, yes.

Watching The Felon said...

Here's my personal theory on why Kimberlin even brought up the basically irrelevant fact of his critic's participation in Everybody Draw.... Kimberlin wrongly expected it would cause an army of angry Muslims to attack Brett's enemies. Naturally nothing of the sort happened, but I can't help but notice Brett and Neal Rauhauser constantly attempt to use this kind of tactic on their critics. I don't think it often works, but I believe at least their hope is the threat of doing it will appear credible, and will successfully intimidate critics.

Birkel said...

Professor Althouse:
Have you considered whether the cultural sensitivity you suggest is needed when exercising free speech is a rather slippery slope? Evidence seems to indicate many people are unable to stop themselves from descending further than you would approve, I'm sure.

I think the incentives people learn from efforts to sensitivity are not what we might prefer. In the abstract, you might be virtuous. But I wonder if the abstract matters when some of the real-world repercussions are decidedly awful.

chickelit said...

Or, maybe it's because Kimberlin is the tip of a lawfare iceberg that has infected prosecuters offices and agencies of government from Texas to Wisconsin to Washington DC?

The context of a law blog, that is the most important and pervasive issue, IMO. The word "lawfare" wasn't even in my lexicon a short while ago. We all need to understand what lawfare is and whether it is due process or vexacious litigation.

chickelit said...

There was Akbar, a nattily dressed African-American who talks through an underbite. There was McCain, a white Southerner who talks without pause through tobacco-colored teeth, and who has been pilloried by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a former 'member of the neo-Confederate hate group League of the South.'

I think this is perhaps the most unsettling aspect for the Left; this sort of teaming just isn't supposed to happen in their world.

Watching The Felon said...

As someone who is upset by what Brett Kimberlin is doing, I was initially also concerned by insinuations that R. S. McCain might be racist. So eventually (in my not-too-copious spare time) I spent some time researching where these claims came from. In summary, there seems to be nothing to them and he's just not racist at all. I may not agree perfectly with his take on U.S. Civil War history, but that's often the case and no sign of bad character.

But to stay on topic, as the judge who is black) pointed out, arguing that the defendants might be racist in no way advances a single one of Brett's claims. After 2 days of Brett's time-wasting, the judge finally issued a ruling that Brett had lost because he never even presented a single shred of relevant evidence during the entire trial. Think about that - this thing dragged out for almost a year, and not only did Brett not prove his case, he didn't even bother to present relevant evidence. If that's not a vexatious litigant, what is? Brett has literally been suing people without cause since 1981, including suing his own bombing victim as retaliation for her just trying to collect her judgment against him (which he still hasn't paid any of).

richard mcenroe said...

I'm relieved to see that a distinguished law professor can note the moral ambiguity between a convicted violent felon and the victims of his serial frivolous litigations...

richard mcenroe said...

Terry — " Weigel downplays Kimberlin's Leftist associations, but he has been supported financially by individuals on the Left and by organizations controlled by the Left."

The amazing thing about that is how little these idiots got for the million-plus bucks they threw at Kimberlin. I went and looked up the websites for all these groups that I could find, and all I came up with was a bunch of stock blogspot and facebook templates with virtually no readership and clipped content passed back and forth between them with little or no outside input. And of course, none of the promised prosecutions such as Bush, Cheney or the Chamber of Commerce ever actually happned.

A million bucks plus for a blogspot blog. Ann, we're doing it wrong.

richard mcenroe said...

Ah, yes, Stacy McCain, the Southern White Raaaaacist! who supported Herman Cain for President.

And just for the record, Ann, I did not draw Mohammed.

I photoshopped him.
http://tinyurl.com/9d4agkt

Katie Scarlet said...

? I'm a little confused. The Draw Mohammad protest really has nothing more to do with this case than Kimberlin's attempt to smear Aaron Walker and deflect attention from his own actions.

Apparently in your case he was successful.

tim in vermont said...

Sorry, what was the "conservative obsession" involved? Aside from a high regard for freedom of speech?

Rhythm and Balls said...

The "Draw Muhammad Day" was a bad idea? Ok, Ms. SmartyPants, what's your suggestion for confronting the authoritarian mores of an unreformed, self-uncritical, perpetually offended, conquest-driven 7th century faith?

Brian said...

Re Beldar's comments, Mark Steyn is taking this approach, in breaking free of his co-defendants' lawyers, getting his own lawyers (after a brief period pro se), and doing everything he can to proceed to trial - defending against Michael "hockey stick" Mann's claim of defamation.

But not before hundreds of thousands of dollars and maybe 1 million+ has been consumed by lawyers pre-trial (and more money will continue to be burned, by now 2 sets of defendants' lawyers).

Steyn says it's Mann who's afraid of a trial, and it will be interesting to see the later's antics as trial day approaches.

Ann Althouse said...

"I understand not knowing how to blog it, but I still would like clarity on your view of the moral ambiguity of this situation."

It's hard for me to explain that in detail without referring to facts I don't know. But basically, here are a lot of people who have a dispute and I don't know exactly where it started and what the different decision points were. So let me speak hypothetically. Let's say X writes some inflammatory things that enrage Y. Y then expresses so much antagonism toward X that X wants to take some shots at Y. X digs ups some facts from long ago and states them on the internet in a way that will cause great harm to Y's reputation. Y feels harassed by this new highlighting of old facts and by the use of some inflammatory words to exaggerate and distort their significance. Y seeks a remedy in court, perhaps only to harass X and get some revenge but perhaps because he believes really is a legal remedy.

Now, how close is that to what happened? I don't know. That's why I put X and Y.

"Why did BK even have to involve himself in the draw Mohammed protest?"

I don't know. Why did the defendants involve themselves in the protest? People engage in speech over an issue of public concern and fight with each other. How can I pick a favorite there?

"How did he end up with so many lawsuits against bloggers?"

I got the impression from Weigel's article that he believed the defendants were ruining his life. He looked to the courts for a remedy. If the lawsuits are frivolous, let the courts impose sanctions. Has that happened?

"I'm imagining if Jessica Valenti had been more litigious, back in the day. Would that have been morally ambiguous, had she decided to sue you and pretty much anyone who wrote in support of you?"

I try very hard never to say anything that I don't know, and those people back then got mad because I described a photograph in a way that embarrassed and angered some people. Anyone can look at that photograph and see I didn't say anything that was factually untrue and damaging to her reputation. It would be extremely foolish to bring a lawsuit for about 10 reasons.

gregq said...

About three paragraphs apart. Do these people ever bother to think?

It is not possible to both think, and be politically correct. So TDB doesn't really worry about their average reader thinking about any of the crap they feed them.

Dustin said...

Althouse,

My law professors taught me that one of the problems in our legal system is that most frivolous lawsuits do not get sanctions. That is why there's a push for better SLAPP laws at the federal level and in Maryland.

I think your proxy for whether a suit is frivilous shouldn't be whether sanctions have been levied yet.

Litigation against earnest opinions, intended to silence speech, is something journalists should care about. That's why the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland does not find this lawfare so morally ambiguous. I'm really pleased that the Washington Post and Daily Beast have covered it, despite a few quibbles about the details in what is a complex story.

David Weigel said...

I did not set out to write a pro-Kimberlin piece, I don't think that's what I produced. The story includes a good number of links that convey how he's behaved over the years. The quotes I got from him (and from the courtroom) made any additional mustache-twirling unnecessary.

Someone pointed out upthread that I didn't explore Kimberlin's links to the Left. I'm sympathetic to that argument, but I do mention his 2004-2007 "Wizard of Odd" (as Time magazine put it) period as a black-box voting activist. I think the later, 2011/2012 coverage of Kimberlin by conservatives revealed that he WANTED to be a player, and was fairly good at collecting money for his foundation, but he'd become a very minor player. Compare his political influence to Bill Ayers's academic influence.

Katie Scarlet said...

Again, this case has absolutely zero to do with the Draw Mohammed Protest. That is only Brett Kimberlin's deflection from the light shone upon his past and his present actions of lawfare and intimidation. He has harassed and threatened the livelihood of not only these bloggers, but their children and families, and anyone else who he dislikes or disagrees. You may not understand the situation, but there is no "moral ambiguity" to be found here.

Birkel said...

Professor Althouse:
I ask again how slippery the slope is. You suggest that the speech that might offend would best be left unsaid. I would ask where the stopping point for that advice is. Do you think society has struck that balance appropriately? Must we avoid saying true things that are deemed offensive because it is impolite to say those things?

I believe the slope has proven quite slippery. And the bad actors who would take advantage of your advice have done so with alacrity. They have greased that slope, if you will.

SarahW said...

Brett Kimberlin didn't give a hang about drawings of Mohammed. That was just an angle for him. He wanted to punish people who talked about his past - and he was panicked there was a conspiracy against him. He thought Aaron might be Aaron Barr. Disappointed, he was still going to make Walker pay for helping Seth Allen.

eleanorvems said...

Dave Weigel - Did Kimberlin insist you name the kid in your piece, or was that your idea?

Douglas said...

If you read the comments to the Daily Beast article, the defenders of Kimberlin for the most part take the following line: "Kimberlin is attacking horrible, mean conservatives, so whatever he does to hurt them, to make them pay $$ for lawyers, to waste time, to lose their jobs, whatever, that's fine with me, it's in a good cause, and I don't care about whether it's frivolous or abusive litigation because he's attacking mean, horrible conservatives."

Doesn't sound like moral ambiguity to me.

MayBee said...

try very hard never to say anything that I don't know, and those people back then got mad because I described a photograph in a way that embarrassed and angered some people. Anyone can look at that photograph and see I didn't say anything that was factually untrue and damaging to her reputation. It would be extremely foolish to bring a lawsuit for about 10 reasons.
-------

Thank you for answering. I actually see very little difference between the two situations, except of course BK actually did bring around a stupid lawsuit. Who are you to say, one could argue, all that arguing over Valenti's breasts wouldn't hurt her career as a political blogger? I don't think it did, nor do you, but it seems one could imagine the argument being brought to a court. After all, who would have imagined a stupid joke tweet or ironic Facebook posting could cause someone to lose a job, but that's where we are these days.

So morally, not different or difficult. Not ambiguous.

I absolutely understand not knowing the details and not blogging about them. But I prefer people (perhaps not you) to admit they were cowed into not discussing it for of being the next defendant. I know I've even been afraid to comment on it..

Having to get an attorney and go to court at all is a huge deal. Winning isn't enough to make up for that.

SarahW said...

DOn't you get it? Kimberlin's schtick is to leverage controversy and make it pay - either in money or burnishing of his own legend-in-his-own-mind status.

Voting machines, the "truth" (as in truther movement), fracking, Pussy riot, whatever he thinks the new hotness is. He even copied the bombings; his feathers are all borrowed and it's meant to fool and fleece suckers.

MayBee said...

Having the court impose sanctions isn't a marker for the morality of the suit*. The sanctions don't affect those who have to upend their lives as defendants.

*think of the patent trolls. They not only don't get sanctioned,they win! They basically. Lack mail innocent users of technology. Immoral.
Or those who go to court to get Social Secuity disability benefits because a friendly doctor will declare them disabled. They win., too. But it's immoral. immoral.

MayBee said...

Blackmail. Stupid autocorrect.

Brian said...

David Weigel,

Thanks for joining us. As I'm sure you know by now, a worthwhile article will usually inspire more criticism than praise - and I expect you're tough enough to handle it.

If this thread is not dead - if you happen to read this - my view is that while your article overall was very good, the initial frame of liberal v. conservative was misplaced. First, Kimberlin is not in my opinion a sincere liberal (or a sincere anything); he strikes various poses as part of an affinity tactic to gain what support he does achieve. This opinion is grounded solely in public information dealing with Kimberlin, e.g., the biography Citizen K.

Second, none of the conservative bloggers ever got into a political argument with Kimberlin or cared about his purportedly liberal views. This conflict got under way when Kimberlin's lawfare and other harassing tactics (initially against actual liberal blogger Seth Allen) became known to conservative bloggers, and intensified with:

1) continued harassment against, e.g., Aaron Worthing and Stacy McCain (e.g., phone calls to wives and employers - which is reasonably interpreted as a threat when the complaining caller is a bomber, who has compiled the information necessary to make such calls), and,

2) the terror tactics of SWATing employed against individuals including Patrick Frey & Eric Erickson - the timing of which circumstantially suggests (but does not prove) that is was done either by Kimberlin, or someone conspiring with Kimberlin, or someone who is a friend, associate or sympathizer of Kimberlin.

The main point is that this is not a liberal v. conservative thing. None of the players cares about, e.g., Kimberlin's proclamations re voting rights.

monitor2112 said...

Professor Althouse,

Thank you for taking the time to link to the story at TDB. I've been following all this since just about the beginning. I've followed all the side stories, etc. It is a mess. However I think it all boils down to Kimberlin not wanting anyone to upset his non-profits scams. Money. All over losing a cash flow.

I don't blame you for not blogging about it. There is a whole lot of reading to undergo to get a handle on it. I do look forward to more coverage from you in the future. I hope you can and will take the time to learn more about this topic, as others have done. Your opinion should prove fascinating.

David Weigel said...

Eleanorvems - I didn't consult with Kimberlin about whether to name the kid. He put her on the stand, and I was struck by the strangeness of that moment, so it went into the story. If you read Aaron Walker's blog posts about the trial, you'll learn that the judge strongly discouraged Kimberlin to call his daughter as a witness.

Brian - You're not wrong, but the "Kimberlin is harassing bloggers" story and the "why won't leftists denounce their ally Kimberlin" story grew up around the same time, like vines around a fence. In 2010, Breitbart.com ran a story about Kimberlin's legal filings against James O'Keefe with the hook that "progressives were embracing" this "bomber."

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2010/10/11/Progressives-Embrace-Convicted-Terrorist

But pretty quickly, the conservatives who wrote about Kimberlin were contacted by him with legal threats. That shifted the story (see Patterico's 2011 blog posts), but over the years, as the circle expanded and people like Neal Rauhauser and Bill Schmalfeldt started defending Kimberlin, the story of the day could shift between "defend free speech" and "fight back against these leftists."

Ann Althouse said...

@David Weigel

Thanks for commenting, and good answer.

Ann Althouse said...

"I ask again how slippery the slope is. You suggest that the speech that might offend would best be left unsaid. I would ask where the stopping point for that advice is. Do you think society has struck that balance appropriately? Must we avoid saying true things that are deemed offensive because it is impolite to say those things?"

These statements and questions are too general to make much sense as something for me to reply to. Feel free to say what you have to say, which perhaps is all you really intend to do.

I don't accept your characterization of what I have said, and the questions you ask as if they are yes-or-no questions are clearly not. As for things like how far is too far and how slippery is too slippery… let's see the specifics of particular cases.

SarahW said...

As long as you comprehend that Kimberlin's beef with Aaron Worthing wasn't about Aaron's relatively minor involvement in Everybody Draw Mohhammed Day. You don't have to approve or disapprove of that to figure out what Kimberlin is - his fuss about that was only a way to get at his enemy.

Kimberlin's vendetta to "unmask" Worthing, which was almost purely spiteful, had do with his offering support to Seth Allen, who was exposing his past all over the place and contradicting his invented tales, put out by proxies, but said to be straight from his lips, of a double-secret "exoneration."

Kimberlin also thought, (probably with a good deal of encouragement from Rauhauser), that there was some big-money plot against him.

He's actually incorporated allusions to this in his legal filings. The fantastic conspiracy he's spun out in his RICO case involving disparate and loosely connected or unconnected entities should serve as a gentle hint of his paranoia.

Brian said...

Dave Weigel,

These are fair points, in your last comment.