The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Nothing Says ‘Merry Christmas’ . . .

Posted on | December 3, 2010 | 62 Comments

. . . quite like the threat of a libel action:

Friday, December 3, 2010 5:02 PM
From: “Barrett Brown”
To: “Robert McCain”
I’ve just spoken with my entertainment lawyer concerning your libelous article about myself and my relationship with Michael Hastings as well as well as my allegedly violent character. You’ll receive an e-mail from [name redacted] either tomorrow or Sunday.

Barrett Brown

Readers will kindly peruse the blog post that prompted this response, and judge for themselves whether there was anything actionable in it.

Mr. Brown has not demanded a retraction of any particular part of the post, but I suppose that’s what lawyers are for.

God bless us, every one!

UPDATE: Thanks to those readers who have noted in the comments the implausibility of Brown’s threat, although nothing is stopping you from contributing to the “F*** You, Barrett Brown” Legal Defense Fund. In the 99% likelihood that my legal expenses in the case of Brown v. McCain are exactly zero, proceeds will go to help repair the deer-damaged KIA and buy my six kids Christmas gifts.

Meanwhile, you’ll find Brown in the comments of my aforesaid allegedly libelous post, asking that I link his own response at another blog. Let’s ponder this request for a minute, shall we?

“Link me, or I’ll sue!”

Yeah, but he’s not crazy or anything like that. Nudge, nudge.

Athough I have no intention of linking Brown’s response, I printed it out and skimmed through it, making a few notes in the margin and, if I were the litigious sort, by God, I’d be suing him for libel. But since Brown assures me that he is willing to be the plaintiff — thus assuming the burden of proof — I will be glad to have as Exhibit A for the defense his response, which is false and defamatory, beginning with the very title:

R.S. McCain accuses me of being a violent militant

No such accusation was made by me. Various articles and book passages were quoted and linked in my post, and certain possible interpretations were suggested, but I am certain I did not accuse Brown of any such thing as he (libelously) accuses me of doing.

Given that he asserts — by threat of libel — that I have maligned his good reputation, Brown unwisely begins with this admission:

So, I wake up this morning all hung over and whatnot and thus decide to spend the day doing nothing . . .

This statement would, I believe, constitute evidence that Barrett Brown has substance-abuse issues of such severity as to cause him to spend entire days unable to do any meaningful work. Perhaps I could find a qualified professional to testify as to the correlation between alcoholism and other anti-social behaviors.

Brown then follows this with another admission:

The main point seems to be that I’m arrogant and narcissistic, which should be news to exactly four people . . .

Brown, the admitted drunkard, thereby verifies my observation and analysis of the “main point” and I ask — ladies and gentlemen of the jury — if this testimony to my credibility, which the plaintiff himself has provided, should not also be considered in regard to the various secondary points of my argument? Remember that the subject of my post was the relationship between Internet “trolls” and narscissism, as you consider what Brown next confesses:

 And speaking of trolling, a very old friend of mine who’s a news producer at an affiliate back east appears to have left a couple of comments over there in the guise of Marvin Olasky . . .

Brown here tells us that he is a close associate of someone who engages in troll behavior, posting comments under assumed names. The defense would ask the plaintiff to provide the name of this person, so that we might subpoena them for possible testimony for the defense.

And your honor, at this time, defense would like to introduce Exhibit B, an article published by Barrett Brown on Sept. 11, 2009 — the jury will please note the date — with the title, “Confessions of a Phony Internet Muslim.”

In this article, Brown writes that he “created an alter-ego, becoming a devout Muslim going by the name of Ali Desu Hussein,” which he describes as “my Islamic Mr. Hyde,” in order to post provocative and disruptive messages in various Internet forums. This is self-evidently antisocial and malicious. Would any psychologically healthy person falsely represents himself under pseudonyms for such a harmful purpose?

Next, Brown pretends to disprove my skeptical remarks about his characterization of Vanity Fair reporter Michael Hastings as his “colleague.” What I wrote was that, in using this term in his YouTube video lecture to National Review editor Rich Lowry, Brown was “expressing a collegiality that probably exists mainly in Brown’s mind.”

The jury will please note the word “probably” in that sentence. Of course I could not know the extent of Brown’s acquaintance with Hastings, despite Brown’s having written sundry things about that relationship, for we have already established that by his own admission Brown perpetrates falsehoods on the Internet. (See defense Exhibit B.)

Given Brown’s confessed use of online deception (his phony “alter-ego,” etc.), his mere assertion as to any particular state of affairs — e.g., an alleged professional relationship with Michael Hastings — proves nothing, as an admitted liar has no credibility. Therefore, skepticism toward such an assertion by Brown was entirely warranted. And what does Brown say of his relationship with Hastings?

We talked on the phone several times and exchanged some number of e-mails . . .

Brown does not say, “We’re best buds,” or “We hung out and had beers together.” No, it’s e-mails and phone calls. By that standard, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I’ve got a whole crapload of “colleagues,” including several members of Congress. But you’ll notice that, so far as we can tell from Exhibit A, Brown and Hastings have never met in person, thus sustaining my assertion, in the blog post that the plaintiff claims is libelous, that “while Brown and Hastings were both True/Slant contributors, it wasn’t like they were hanging out around the office coffee machine, swapping stories.”

My credibility once more vindicated, I next call to your attention this statement by Brown:

. . . the rest can be confirmed by Andrew Sullivan, with whom I discussed the events after he linked to my piece.

Andrew Sullivan. Andrew Sullivan? Does the plaintiff really wish to bring to this honorable court’s attention his professional collaboration with Andrew Sullivan? Your honor, the defense would like to introduce at this time Exhibit C, showing that this same Andrew Sullivan has a criminal record for possession of illegal drugs. We also introduce Exhibit D, a blog post from Ace of Spades HQ, containing certain relevant information about Suliivan’s other behaviors, although there is perhaps no need to discuss this information at this time.

So far, then, we have established that Barrett Brown is a confessed drunkard, by his own admission “arrogant and narcissistic,” a deceptive Internet “troll” who is friends with others who engage in similar deceptive activity online, and an associate of a criminal drug abuser, Andrew Sullivan.

Given all this, your honor, it is the belief of the defense that Barrett Brown is a person of such infamous ill-repute that any negative comments made about him on the Internet could not possibly be considered defamatory. We ask that your honor take into consideration the evidence presented so far, and grant a directed verdict of acquittal. While you consider this request, we will ask that the court be recessed.


UPDATE II: While the court is in recess, I wanted to share with you a communication I received from an attorney who, although not in a position to offer advice to me as a client, did make these observations:

First, I read the post earlier today and thought it so fantastic (for reasons having nothing to do with Brown, of whom I’ve barely heard) that I forwarded it immediately to my wife as “must read.” . . .
I saw nothing libelous in your post and would be amazed if a reputable lawyer would feel differently.  You accused him of nothing; you stated no false or private facts so far as I could see.  His threatening response sort of makes your point.

For what it’s worth, anyway. Thanks to The Lonely Conservative for the link.

UPDATE III: Predictable:

Hat-tip: William Teach in the comments. By the way, notice that the title in the cross-post at LGF is slightly different. Now Brown says I have accused him of “planning violent attacks,” which I certainly did not do.

Next? Expect Sully himself to weigh in.

UPDATE IV: Letter to a Damned Fool.


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