November 11, 2014

Question: How is Rush Limbaugh like Lena Dunham?

Answer: He's threatening to sue somebody for quoting him.

1. "Lena Dunham Threatens To Sue Truth Revolt For Quoting Her/Lena Dunham may not like our interpretation of her book, but unfortunately for her and her attorneys, she wrote that book."

2. "Limbaugh threatens to sue DCCC for ‘out of context’ quotes about sexual consent."
The legal threat is the result of DCCC fundraising appeals sent out in the wake of Limbaugh’s on-air comments about a new policy at Ohio State University that instructs students to get verbal consent before having sex. The DCCC highlighted one particular sentence from his commentary — “How many of you guys . . . have learned that ‘no’ means ‘yes’ if you know how to spot it?” — saying it was tantamount to condoning sexual assault.
For an older variation on this sort of lawsuit — a real lawsuit, not just a threat to sue — recall Shirley Sherrod's defamation claim against Andrew Breitbart for presenting a quote of hers out of context. That lawsuit is still pending (incredibly, against Breitbart's widow). A couple years ago, I commented:
Don't we constantly extract quotes and clips from larger contexts? I do blog posts by that method all the time. I find the juiciest line and quote it often deliberately out of context or with intent to misdirect for humorous or shocking effect. It's the reader's responsibility to figure out what to do with it. I'm not ashamed to operate that way. For one thing, I give links, so you have a path to the larger context. And, more important, by depriving you of a pat, self-contained package, I'm forcing you to read critically and keep going.

There's always more to the story. When we purport to put something "in context," it's never the whole context. We're choosing the frame of information that serves our interests, interests that may include but are rarely limited to the pure understanding of the truth. Traditional newspapers may have led their readers to think that they'd processed all the information and digested it into a simple-to-read article, and they often abused their readers' trust. The web doesn't work like that. The web activates its readers, and I think that's for the good....

37 comments:

tim in vermont said...

Rush has to protect the small businesses who advertise on his show locally. I know one guy personally that pulled his ads because he depends on on-line reviews for business and can't take the chance.

That's just people I know. There are several small businesses in Vermont that have advertised on his show that are vulnerable to "digital brownshirts," to coin a phrase.

You may do it for your blog, but not as part of a deliberate strategy that involves inflicting economic harm on supporters as part of a strategy to silence somebody.

tim in vermont said...

Besides, hes practically a billionaire, with no kids, and he can't take it with him.

Skyler said...

And Breitbart was clear that his point was the audience reaction, not Sherrod's comments that was the point.

Anonymous said...

Even trickier than when words are taken out of context: when the tone in which they are spoken is stripped away, pretty much inevitable when reduced to text.

Tone is especially tricky, even when text is the intended format; thank goodness for emoticons and the like. Indeed, I think Althouse should profusely employ emoticons so any possible confusion is removed.

Tag: lawsuits I hope will fail

Emoticon: frowny face

Gahrie said...

There is a difference between a writer using a quote, in context or out, to make a point, and a political campaign taking a quote out of context to smear an opponent and/or fundraise.

Plus, this is an instance in using Democratic tactics (lawfare) against Democratic goons. Alinsky would be proud.

Gahrie said...

Plus the comparision is off, Dunham's comments were discussed in context, Rush's comments were deliberately distorted to imply the opposite of what he said.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Rush was a pebble in the vagina of the DCCC.

Mark said...

Oh, don't worry.

He will do his best to make himself a martyr about this. No greater injustice has ever happened a more innocent man, I am sure.

Christy said...

Oh, noes! I just realized I've lost my American soul! For I see this as a sauce-goose-gander sort of thing. Progressives have turned me into a victim. My side must grab what they can from the system and to hell with right or wrong. Excuse me while I go sit in the Garden and eat worms.

And I don't even like Limbaugh.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Question: How is Rush Limbaugh like Lena Dunham?

Answer: They're both very high on my list of people I don't want to see naked.

Phil 3:14 said...

Rush is a contextualist?

Unknown said...

Is there a difference between quoting someone to make a political statement and quoting someone to get money? 1st seems to be pretty clear 1st amendment, but using someone else's words to solicit sounds more like a business activity, and I would think he has a right to (1) allow it or not, and (2) collect some fraction of the funds so garnered. But I'm not a lawyer.

Ann Althouse said...

Speech that is used to get money includes all professional writing and all campaign fundraising (which is needed to run for office).

Terry said...

I'm sure that Ann knows that nearly all of the criticism and hatred directed at Limbaugh comes from people who only know Limbaugh through out-of-context quotes.
I think that most of these quotes come from Media Matters.

tim in vermont said...

He will do his best to make himself a martyr about this.

I actually listen to Rush sometimes, and I got more that this is a fight worth fighting than any sense of martyrdom on his part.

I agree with him. Nobody thinks of a guy as rich as Rush as a martyr. I remember one time the NYT did an interview with him, they went out to dinner in NYC, and Rush got fabulous service from the staff, lighting his cigar for him, etc, etc. The interviewer was obliged by ethics rules to pick up the check, and he finds out that Rush usually tips 5K, and that the staff ended up getting screwed.

I don't begrudge him that, or his private jet, or his golf outings to Hawaii, or the Maldives, or wherever he goes. I just don't care. One thing he is not, however, is a martyr.

tim in vermont said...

There are martyrs in this story, however. They are the small businesses who have been bullied by the Democrat Party and their brownshirts, and threatened with economic destruction.

Original Mike said...

"I find the juiciest line and quote it often deliberately out of context or with intent to misdirect for humorous or shocking effect."

I don't have a problem with the practice when it's done for humor, especially in a blog where people have easy access to the source material. When it's done to mislead in the context of a serious discussion, however, it is lying, which is rarely acceptable.

Birkel said...

So now it is appropriate to take a classroom hypothetical, not disclose that it is a hypothetical, and attribute the words to the professor as if the professor meant those words to be her own?

Althouse proposing a hypothetical in class: "Now suppose instead of saying "..." the owner of Blackacre has said "I hate (insert protected group here)" ...

Article about Althouse: "Ann Althouse often says I hate (insert protected group here)."

Assume this leads to a detriment in employment because Althouse has not yet earned tenure. There are damages.

Is this a lawsuit I should hope to fail or should we punish the wrongdoers under an equitable theory?

bgates said...

Let’s be clear: Rush Limbaugh is advocating for the tolerance of rape” the DCCC stated in a September fundraising email

He's not suing over their quote of him. He's suing over their words, which are clearly defamatory.

Dunham is suing because Truth Revolt accurately quoted her.

tim in vermont said...

There is a scene in For Whom the Bell Tolls where the local small businessmen are singled out by the Communists, marched to the town square and beaten to death with flails as they are finally pushed over a cliff.

The left never changes.

DKWalser said...

How are they alike? There are lots of ways: They both have two eyes, hands, feet. They both need to breathe air and need to eat to live. The both speak English and grew up in the United States.

They are both threatening to sue over being quoted. These two lawsuits, if they come to pass, will have lots of similarities: They'll both be written in English, on paper, and filed in a US (federal or state) court. Both suits will involve attorneys, discovery, and lots of legal expense.

So, like the two individuals, there are lots of similarities between the two proposed suits. What's more important is what the two do not have in common. In Rush's case, the suit would be over intentional misrepresentation of what he said through selective quoting. The claim would be that these intentional misrepresentations were used to try to harm Rush by threatening boycotts against his advertisers. Dunham is upset that someone published a critical review of her book that, in context, quoted portions of her book. Other than the both involving quotes (and being written in English, involving attorneys, etc.), the two lawsuits have nothing in common.

dustbunny said...

How else are they alike? Limbaugh does masterful verbal performance art. Sometimes he gets sloppy, he has a lot of time to fill. Dunham's art is more physical and intentionally sloppy. She wants her persona to be admired for a deliberate lack of finesse as though that is a sign of her authenticity. There is a creepiness to her insistence on portraying herself as an overgrown little girl. Also more than a little creepiness in the delusional critics who admire that aspect of her character by calling it empowering. She also has a very thin skin for someone who so relentlessly pursues a public life.

Revenant said...

How is Rush Limbaugh like Lena Dunham?

They're both people I'd be happy to never hear about again?

Bob R said...

How is Ann Althouse like Lena Dunham? They think the "I'm an unreliable narrator" / "I ... quote it deliberately out of context" ploy gives them a pass for a messy relationship with the truth. Not working out very well for Lena right now.

tim in vermont said...

I would be very curious to hear about these "lies" of Limbaugh.

Here is one touted as a lie:

When news broke that Ferguson 18-year-old Michael Brown was a suspect in a robbery, "MSNBC practically went off the air for a while to have behind-closed-doors meetings to figure out how to deal with this new revelation." - Rush Limbaugh

Politifact actually went to the trouble of rating this as false. This is obvious hyperbole.

Are all of your examples of "messy relationship with the truth" based on a requirement the Limbaugh not be allowed the use of irony and hyperbole? All of his statements must be taken as if delivered without a wink?

Maybe somebody has been lying to you about Limbaugh?

tim in vermont said...

By the way, I didn't go searching, that was the first "lie" that came up.

Popville said...

Re: Breitbart's widow: Susannah Bean is the daughter of Orson Bean, who many of us know from "To Tell The Truth" and a zillion TV guest star appearances. Orson Bean went through Orgone/Reichian therapy circa late 60s/early 70s & wrote an interesting & accurate book (Me and the Orgone) about the therapy and Wilhelm Reich, who'd developed the therapy over decades in Germany & the US, and who'd once been Freud's 1st assistant. Bean's father was a cofounder of the ACLU. Some magazine writer could craft an interesting long article about all this.

Unknown said...

In the 8:03 & 8:22 exchange, either I was not clear or you are obfuscating. Are Rush's shows protected by copyright? If someone else uses Rush's words to make money, is that an infringement on fair use?

Dan Hossley said...

You're off the mark on this one, they didn't "quote' him. Taking statements out context and stringing them together to change the meaning of his thought is defamation not quotation.

I can't wait for the depositions.

Jason said...

Yeah, I think Althouse has swung and missed at this one.

The best card the Dems can play is "well, we were just stating an opinion based on his words, not a fact." And hope to skate by under the same legal theory that protects someone who writes a bad review of a restaurant.

But accusing someone of advocating tolerance for rape is a very different thing from accusing them of serving cold potato soup. Or that pizza I got in Italy with no sauce. No sauce! Can you believe it? Those dirty, dirty bastards.

Unknown said...

The article says:

"The DCCC highlighted one particular sentence from his commentary — “How many of you guys . . . have learned that ‘no’ means ‘yes’ if you know how to spot it?” — saying it was tantamount to condoning sexual assault."

If these words were published on the solicitation, it's a quote. If the quote was not published in the solicitation, then this article is way out of whack wrong.

Joe said...

Rush sycophants claiming Rush didn't say things he clearly said is apparently a cottage industry.

Andy Krause said...

Well go ahead Joe and show us some of the items used in this cottage industry. Feel free to pick more than few examples.

paul kraamer said...

they sorta look alike, just sayin

Humperdink said...

Examples Joe? There must be a gazillion to choose from.

richard mcenroe said...

Actually he's threatening to sue someone for deliberately editing his quote to make it sound like the opposite of what he actually said. Not even the most rabid of Dunham's accusers can say that's the case.

Jason said...

Funny. Joe ran away.