Gotta love it when Nicole decides to do a little lecture. In another post, she directs some stuff right at me.
And today, she has once again announced that she is going to sue. . . somebody.
Harassment, defamation and stalking are criminal and civil suits.
To begin with, this is a nonsensical sentence. It sounds like something Joe would write.
There’s the basic difference for you. Any individual can file a civil suit against any other individual. Nicole thinks I did a bad thing to her. Nicole can file a lawsuit against me if she wishes.
Of course, she then has to prove her case in court, and I’ll get back to that in a minute.
Criminal cases aren’t “suits.” Criminal cases aren’t filed by individuals. Criminal cases involve stuff that is considered bad for society as a whole, and are filed by the state. If Nicole thinks she’s being harmed, and wants a criminal case filed, she has to go convince the police and ultimately the district attorney that she’s right.
But let’s go back to her basic complaint. She says she is a victim of “harassment, defamation and stalking.”
The only part of that definition that Nicole could possibly stretch and try to make fit here is “merely gain sadistic pleasure from making someone fearful or anxious.” And that would be tough to prove. She makes public statements, and in this case, directed a question right at me by name. I respond. That is not “harassment.”
Driving down a public road in front of her property one time without making a move to stop (the only reason anyone stopped is because we would have had to hit Joe to continue) is not “harassment.”
I have never “stalked” the Nauglers. I have never even laid eyes on Nicole. I have met Joe once and he initiated that contact, not me.
I don’t know anyone who has stalked the Nauglers. I’ve never seen a credible example of stalking given. She just blathers about it, using the word as though she knows what it actually is.
But let’s turn to the other thing: defamation.
There are two basic prongs to defamation, with some additional side issues. Before we go further, let’s differentiate between slander and libel. Slander is spoken, libel is written. Nobody has ever slandered the Nauglers that I know anything about.
But back to the two prongs. Defamatory statements must be (1) false, and (2) they have to be damaging. And you can’t just trot into court and say,
“Gee, this statement is false and it hurt my little feels.” You have to prove that the statement is false and you have to prove that the false statement directly damaged you.
Here’s an example. If I were to write on Facebook: “My neighbor is a drug dealer and I don’t think drug dealers should be employed as police officers,”and as a result of that statement, my neighbor lost his job, I would be guilty of libel. My neighbor is not a drug dealer at all.
But he’d have to prove that (1) I wrote it, and (2) his loss of his job was a direct result of what I said (an unlikely scenario, admittedly).
When I started blogging, this concerned me a bit. I wanted to be certain that I understood the law and didn’t run afoul of it. So I asked around, looked around and found out.
Nicole wrote in the first screen shot about opinion. She’s more or less right in what she wrote although she glosses over a lot of it.
There are several things to note here. First is that an opinion, if based on factual information and that doesn’t “allege dishonorable motives on the part of the target of the comment” is protected speech.
On this blog, I offer my opinions, my conclusions. They are all based entirely on what Nicole writes. I don’t really have any other source of information (with the exception of things like the Runaway Horse video).
Let’s take Shitgate as an example. Here’s my original post about the topic of the bucket-shitting.
Nicole, please tell me what was false about that? Name one single statement of fact that I made that wasn’t true. This is an example of me expressing my opinions based on factual material (her own pictures and information). I didn’t “allege dishonorable motives” on the part of Nicole. I have no idea what their motives were to shit in buckets. I didn’t say that I thought they were shitting in buckets in order to purposely contaminate the watershed and spread disease.
This is typical of what I do. It’s quite clear if you read the piece what is a statement of fact (“there is no hole”) and what is my opinion (“But I suspect the pathogen came from the non-existent sanitation that these people live with.”)
This is protected speech. I expressed opinions based on factual data and alleged no nefarious motives to the Nauglers.
But wait. There is more.
Nicole and Joe Naugler are “limited public figures.”
In some cases, a limited public figure isn’t necessarily required to have purposely become such. When the Boston Marathon bombing happened, there was a Saudi student who was either a bystander or participant in the race who was interviewed on TV, and I think actually questioned by the police. Glenn Beck made some very derogatory comments about the guy, inferring that he was involved in the bombing and the guy decided to sue his sorry ass.
Beck insisted that he was protected because the guy was a “limited public figure” (due to his willingness to be interviewed by the media) and therefore the student would have to prove malice on Beck’s part, not just that the information was entirely false.
In this particular case, just being interviewed by the press did not make the student a “limited public figure.” He claimed no expertise about the matter. He was simply there.
Contrast this with Nicole and Joe, who quite clearly (“This is going viral”) thrust themselves into the public limelight for the sole purpose of influencing the outcome.
The “limited” part of this involves the scope of the public figure’s “publicness.” Donald Trump is the President-elect of the United States, and as such, is fair game for almost anything. He is the epitome of the word “public figure.”
The anti-choice activist who gives an interview to the media is a “limited public figure.” His activism about the abortion issue is the only thing he’s considered a public figure about. Other things about his private life are not included; for instance, what his wife does for a living – provided she’s an accountant and not a public official who is trying to overturn Roe.
The problem that the Nauglers have is that they have made, by their own actions (“This is going viral”), everything about their lives public.
Now, this does not mean that they can be libeled at will.
What it means is that the bar to prove libel is raised a bit. In an ordinary libel suit, the plaintiff has to prove that the information is false and also that it is damaging.
In the Nauglers’ case, they have to prove that it is false, damaging, and that the person who wrote it knew that it was false and just did it anyway.
There’s one other issue here and that concerns exactly what an opinion is.
Nicole is correct that you cannot just preface a defamatory statement with “In my opinion” and then have it considered an opinion. She doesn’t give the full thing, though.
Here’s an example, going back to my neighbor.
Let’s assume that somebody bought the house across the road and moved in and we were talking to him and I said, “I think that the neighbor there is an alcoholic.”
I said, “I think. . .”
I also slandered him.
The reason for this is that I offered no reason for why I think that the neighbor is an alcoholic. The new neighbor would very likely think that I had some sort of inside knowledge as to why I thought that (I’ve lived here for eight years and known the neighbor all that time) and therefore maybe I knew what I was talking about. In this case, not offering evidence is sort of like saying “this is such common public knowledge that everyone knows it and there is no question about it being true.”
But suppose I said, “The neighbor over there always has a beer in his hand when he mows the grass. I think he’s an alcoholic.”
That is protected opinion. It’s a stupid opinion, of course, but that is exactly why it is protected. Anyone can take the evidence I offer (he drinks a beer on nice summer afternoons) and conclude that such evidence does not make the guy an alcoholic.
Opinions are fine and they are protected provided you offer reasons for them. But just tacking on “in my opinion” isn’t enough.
This is very basic stuff and it can get much more complicated, of course. Lawyers have to earn their money somehow. But that’s the overall idea.
Okay, this is long enough, I think. I am going to go on from here and talk about Nicole’s question to me above (about the daughter’s reading skills). That issue, though, needed this stuff as background.